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Insect repellent toolkit


When choosing a repellent to prevent mosquito bites, look for the following information on the product label: 

  • Active Ingredient
    • EPA-registered repellents will contain one of the following active ingredients:front-label-active-ingredient
      • DEET
      • Picaridin
      • IR3535
      • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)
      • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • Mosquito Protection
    • The label will usually list "mosquitoes" as one of the insects that the product repels. The label might also list mosquito-borne diseases that the product will help prevent.
      • Example: "Long Lasting Protection From Mosquitoes, Ticks and Biting Flies"
      • Example: "Repels Mosquitoes That May Carry West Nile Virus"
  • Protection Time or Active Ingredient Percentage (%)
    • Not all products will list the number of hours that the repellent works to prevent mosquito bites. A repellent with a higher percentage of active ingredient will work longer to keep mosquitoes from biting you, but DEET products with more than 50% DEET will not usually provide extra protection against mosquito bites.

Choose a repellent that will protect you for the amount of time you plan to be outdoors. If you plan to be outside in your yard for a short time, a repellent with a low percentage of active ingredient (about 10%) will work well to prevent mosquito bites. However, if you plan to be outside in areas with mosquitoes for several hours, use a repellent with a higher percentage of active ingredient (20-30%) to protect you for a longer time. When you are sweating or getting wet, repellents don't last as long.

Who should use repellent and when?

Use repellent when you spend time outdoors in areas with mosquitoes, especially during warmer months of the year.

EPA-registered repellent is safe for use on:

  • Adults
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Children older than 2 months

Insect repellent should not be used on babies younger than 2 months old. To protect babies from mosquito bites, dress the child in clothing that covers arms and legs, and cover the child's crib, stroller, or baby carrier with a mosquito net.  

Learn how to apply mosquito repellent

Mosquitoes are more active during warmer months, and you are more likely to be bitten during these times. Different kinds of mosquitoes are active at certain times of day. For example, the Culex mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus bite at dawn and dusk. You should use repellent if you will be outside early in the morning or late in the evening before it gets dark.  

The Aedes mosquitoes that may carry the Zika virus (called Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus) are found in some areas of California and bite during the day. At this time, the risk for Aedes mosquitoes spreading Zika in California is low. If you live in areas of California with these Aedes mosquitoes, you should use repellent if you are outside during the day. For more information on Zika, visit the CDPH Zika virus webpage or view a world map of areas with Zika.



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