Using Insect Repellents Safely
For the safe and effective use of pesticide products, always read the product label before using the product. Apply just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Remember these important points to use repellents safely:
- Follow the label directions to ensure proper use.
- Repellents should be applied only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not use under clothing.
- Store insect repellents safely out of the reach of children, in a locked utility cabinet or garden shed.
- 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, and do not use it near food.
- 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 on lice or fleas.
- Use other preventive actions to avoid getting bitten .
- Read more about active ingredients.
Repellents and Children
EPA does not recommend any additional precautions for using registered repellents on pregnant or lactating women, or on children, other than those listed on the label. For example, some repellents are eye irritants and those labels would have a specific caution about keeping the product away from your eyes.
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.
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) through their toll-free number, 1-800-858-7378 or npic.orst.edu
Additional Information About Safe Use of Insect Repellents
- Insect Repellent Use and Safety - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Using Insect Repellents on Children - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Traveler's Health: Mosquito and Tick Protection - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Safety Tips on Using Personal Insect Repellents - Health Canada
- Repellents and Children - American Academy of Pediatrics
- DEET General Fact Sheet – NPIC