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insect repellent toolkit

Other Repellent Products

Insect Repellent and Sunscreenbag with sunscreen & bug spray

Some products combine insect repellent and sunscreen. These combination products are not recommended because you usually need to reapply sunscreen more often than insect repellent. Frequent reapplication of insect repellent is unnecessary and not recommended. If you are going outside in the sun, use sunscreen and repellent separately. Apply sunscreen first, then apply insect repellent on your skin or clothes. Reapply sunscreen as directed by the label instructions for the sunscreen product you are using.

For more information about sunscreen and repellent, view Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2018 Yellow Book about sun exposure.  

Repellent Clip-on Products/Wrist Bands candle

Some insect repellent products are used to keep insects away from a limited area. Examples of these products include fans, clip-on fans, wristbands, coils, candles, and tabletop diffusers. These are not the best products to prevent insect bites because they only repel insects from a small area around the product, not your whole body. If you are outdoors and active in areas with mosquitoes or ticks, it is best to use repellent applied to skin and clothing for personal protection wherever you go.

Natural Insect Repellent Products

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only registers active ingredients that have proven information about their safety to humans and their ability to repel insects. Products not registered by the EPA might be safe to use, but they are not known to effectively protect people from insect bites. Products and active ingredients not registered by the EPA, or exempt from EPA registration, cannot be recommended for use to protect against diseases transmitted by insects, including West Nile virus, Zika, and Lyme disease. Examples of ingredients in repellent products that are not registered include essential oils like:

  • Citronella oil
  • Cedar oil
  • Geranium oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Soybean oil 

While these ingredients might be considered "natural" and safe to use, they have not been evaluated for their ability to repel insects or protect against disease. 

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and CDC strongly suggest the use of EPA-registered insect repellents because they are safe when used as directed and known to effectively prevent insect bites. This reduces the chances of getting a disease from mosquitoes or ticks.

Permethrin

Permethrin is a chemical (called an "insecticide") that kills insects like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. Permethrin should never be applied directly to the skin to kill or repel insects. Permethrin is most often used to treat clothing and gear before going out into areas with mosquitoes or ticks.

For more information about permethrin, visit:

CDC's tick bite and Lyme disease prevention webpage

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) permethrin-treated clothing webpage

EPA's permethrin and pyrethroid webpage

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