Using Insect Repellents Safely and Effectively
For the safe and effective use of pesticide products, always read the product label before using the product.
On this page:
- Ensuring safety
- Mazimizing effectiveness
Remember these important points to use repellents safely:
- Read and follow the label directions to ensure proper use; be sure you understand how much to apply.
- Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not use under clothing.
- Do not apply near eyes and mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.
- When using sprays, do not spray directly into face; spray on hands first and then apply to face.
- Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Do not spray in enclosed areas.
- Avoid breathing a spray product.
- Do not use it near food.
- Check the label to see if there are warnings about flammability. If so, do not use around open flames or lit cigarettes.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin and clothes with soap and water.
- Do not use any product on pets or other animals unless the label clearly states it is for animals.
- Most insect repellents do not work against lice or fleas.
- Store insect repellents safely out of the reach of children, in a locked utility cabinet or garden shed.
- Use other preventive actions to avoid getting bitten by:
We advise consumers to always read and follow label directions in using any pesticide product, including insect repellents.
Because children frequently put their hands in their eyes and mouths, EPA recommends that all repellent products have the following precautionary statements related to children on their labels:
- Do not allow children to handle this product, and do not apply to children's hands. When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
- After returning indoors, wash your child's treated skin and clothes with soap and water or bathe.
According to the label, oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under the age of three. Other ingredients do not have an age restriction.
Questions often arise about use of DEET on children. DEET is approved for use on children with no age restriction. Also, there is no restriction on the percentage of DEET in the product for use on children, since data do not show any difference in effects between young animals and adult animals in tests done for product registration. There also are no data showing incidents that would lead us to believe there is a need to restrict the use of DEET.
Always store insect repellents safely out of the reach of children.
If you are concerned about using repellent products on children you may wish to consult a health care provider for advice or contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) Exit or through their toll-free number, 1-800-858-7378.
Apply and re-apply a repellent according to the label instructions. Don't overuse the products, but be sure to apply the amount of repellent indicated by the label. If you don't follow the label directions, the product may not be as effective as you expect. The label on the insect repellent product is your guide to using these products safely and effectively. The effectiveness of the product can vary due to conditions such as:
- Physical activity/perspiration.
- Water exposure.
- Air temperature.
- How attractive you are to mosquitoes and ticks; every person is different.
Additional Information About Safe Use of Insect Repellents
- Insect Repellent Use and Safety - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Traveler's Health: Mosquito and Tick Protection - CDC
- Safety Tips on Using Personal Insect Repellents (PDF) (2 pp, 178.74 K, About PDF) - Health Canada Exit
- Repellents and Children - American Academy of Pediatrics Exit
- DEET General Fact Sheet - NPIC Exit