The best way to protect yourself from mosquito-borne
diseases is to avoid mosquito bites when going outdoors. EPA-registered insect
repellents such as those containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon
Eucalyptus, IR3535 or Permethrin will provide effective protection
against mosquito bites when used properly.
How Repellents Work
Female mosquitoes in search of a blood meal use their antennae to respond to
chemical cues produced by humans and other animal hosts. These chemicals include
carbon dioxide which is exhaled during breathing and lactic acid which is
produced and left on the skin by sweat. Warmth and moisture emanating from the
skin create convection currents that enable mosquitoes to follow a chemical
pathway right to the host.
Effective mosquito repellents contain chemicals that interfere with the
mosquito's ability to detect the host's natural chemicals. When applied to the
skin, molecules of repellent enter the convection currents and mask the presence
of lactic acid and other chemicals. Upon approach, the mosquito turns away from
the skin instead of landing on it.
CDC evaluation of information contained in peer-reviewed scientific literature
and data available from EPA has identified several EPA registered products that
provide repellent activity sufficient to help people avoid the bites of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Products containing these active ingredients typically
provide reasonably long-lasting protection:
- DEET (Chemical Name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide
- Picaridin (KBR 3023, Chemical Name:
2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester )
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus* or PMD
(Chemical Name: para-Menthane-3,8-diol) the synthesized version of oil of
- IR3535 (Chemical Name:
3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester)
Certain products containing permethrin are recommended for
use on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear, and are
registered with EPA for this use. Permethrin is highly effective as an
insecticide and as a repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills
ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods and retains this effect after repeated
laundering. The permethrin insecticide should be reapplied following the label
instructions. Some commercial products are available pretreated with permethrin.
Mosquito Repellent Guidelines
Read and follow all instructions on the label before applying
for the best results.
Apply insect repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as
directed on the product label). Do not use repellents under clothing.
Do not apply to cuts, irritated or sunburned skin.
Do not spray in enclosed areas. Avoid breathing the spray and do not spray near
Do not spray products directly on your face. Spray your hands
and then rub your face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy
application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness.
After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. This is
especially important if you are applying repellents in a day or over several
For more information about repellents, please visit the Center for Disease
Control website at