June 14, 2019 | by Trong Tony Trinh MD, MPH

Summertime can mean an increase in exposure to bugs, which is why it’s important to take precaution and wear bug repellent. From Lyme disease to West Nile virus and Zika virus, insect repellent can protect you from potentially harmful viruses and bugs while you enjoy the great outdoors.

How to Choose and Use Insect Repellent Effectively

  • Use registered insect repellent. The Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC) recommends using products registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA registered repellents have been deemed safe and effective for people, including pregnant and breastfeeding women. Tip: Look for its registration number (“EPA Reg.”) on the back of the label.
  • Read the ingredients. According to a Consumer Reports survey, more than 50 percent of adults don’t read the ingredients on insect repellents. It’s important to know the active ingredient concentration to maximize safety and protection. Look for deet, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or picaridin which all work well and are safe when used appropriately.
  • Apply correctly. Use just enough to cover exposed skin and only for as long as needed; heavier doses don’t work better and can increase risks. Only apply repellent to exposed skin or clothing, as directed by the product label, and never apply repellent under clothing. It’s also important to remember to reapply after swimming or sweating.
  • Consider Your Options. If you have a tough time applying spray-on bug repellent, consider using a cream instead. Cream repellent can be a great alternative to a spray because you are able to get an even application and avoid missing any exposed areas.