Spending time together outdoors is good for the whole family. Don’t let bug bites ruin your fun.
Most bug bites are harmless, but some mosquitoes and ticks carry diseases.
- You can get serious diseases from mosquitoes, like West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, and dengue fever.
- Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are 2 of the serious diseases you can get from ticks.
The good news is that you can take easy steps to protect yourself and your family from mosquito and tick bites.
Take steps to avoid bites from mosquitoes and ticks.
- Get rid of standing (still) water around your home to keep some types of mosquitoes from laying eggs near your house.
- Cut back brush and tall grasses and get rid of fallen leaves to keep ticks away.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.
- Use bug repellent (also called bug spray or insect repellent) on skin and clothing.
- After spending time outside, check everyone for ticks.
- Take a shower after coming inside to help get ticks off of you.
- Use a tick collar or other repellent product on your pets. And remember to check your pets for ticks.
Keep ticks away from your home.
Many types of ticks live in areas with woods, brush, or high grass. Animals, like dogs and deer, may also carry ticks in their fur. To keep ticks away from your lawn:
- Clear brush, tall grasses, and fallen leaves from around your home. Mow the lawn often.
- Use wood chips or gravel to separate your patio or play equipment from wooded and brushy areas.
- Remove plants that attract deer, and put up a fence to keep deer out of your yard.
- Consider applying tick control products to your yard. You can do this yourself or hire a pest control company.
- Ask a vet for tick control medicine or tick collars for your pets. Dogs and cats need different tick control medicines, so make sure to get the right one.
What type of bug repellent do I need?
- Use a bug spray with 20 to 50% DEET to avoid tick and mosquito bites. Check the label.
- You can also look for repellents with picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 to avoid mosquito bites.
- It’s a good idea to use sunscreen when you are outside, but look for a separate sunscreen lotion. Don’t use bug repellent that has sunscreen already mixed in.
- Use a spray with permethrin on your clothes, shoes, and camping gear to repel and kill ticks. (Don’t use permethrin directly on your skin.)
How do I use bug repellent?
- Spray it on your clothes or on exposed skin.
- Don’t spray repellent directly on your face. Instead, use your hands to carefully rub it on your face. You can also use wipes that contain bug repellent to wipe it on your skin.
- Don’t use repellent on babies under 2 months old.
- Find out how to use insect repellents safely on children.
- Wash repellent off skin with soap and water when you come inside.
Repellent for use on skin and clothing
CDC has evaluated information published in peer-reviewed scientific literature and data available from EPA to identify several EPA-registered products that provide repellent activity sufficient to help people reduce the bites of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Products containing the following active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection:
- DEET (chemical name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide). Products containing DEET include, but are not limited to, Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon.
- Picaridin (KBR 3023 [Bayrepel] and icaridin outside the United States; chemical name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester). Products containing picaridin include, but are not limited to, Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan (outside the United States).
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (chemical name: para-menthane-3,8-diol), the synthesized version of OLE. Products containing OLE and PMD include, but are not limited to, Repel. This recommendation refers to EPA-registered repellent products containing the active ingredient OLE (or PMD). “Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil) is not the same product; it has not undergone similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy, is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent, and is not covered by this recommendation.
- IR3535 (chemical name: 3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester). Products containing IR3535 include, but are not limited to, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition.
Precautions when Using Insect Repellents
Everyone should take the following precautions:
- Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing, as directed on the product label.
- Do not use repellents under clothing.
- Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Do not apply repellents to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.
- When using sprays, do not spray directly on face—spray on hands first and then apply to face.
- Wash hands after application to avoid accidental exposure to eyes. Children should not handle repellents. Instead, adults should apply repellents to their own hands first, and then gently spread on the child’s exposed skin. Avoid applying directly to children’s hands.
- Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin or clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, apply a bit more.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days.
- Wash treated clothing before wearing it again. This precaution may vary with different repellents—check the product label.
Most repellents can be used on children aged >2 months. Protect infants aged <2 months from mosquitoes by using an infant carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit. Products containing OLE specify that they should not be used on children aged <3 years. Other than the safety tips listed above, EPA does not recommend any additional precautions for using registered repellents on children or on pregnant or lactating women.
- Using Insect Pesticides Safely (EPA)
National Pesticide Information Center
- Insect Repellent Use and Safety (CDC)
Note: If you experience a rash or other reaction, such as itching or swelling, from an insect repellent, the repellent should be discontinued and washed off with mild soap and water, and a local poison-control center should be called for further guidance. Travelers seeking health care because of the repellent should take the repellent to the doctor’s office and show the doctor. Permethrin should never be applied to skin but only to clothing, bed nets, or other fabrics as directed on the product label.
Check for ticks after spending time outside – even in your yard.
Check everybody in the family, including pets. Check the entire body, especially:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Back of the knees and between the legs
- Around the waist and inside the belly button
- In and around hair
Take a shower after being outside
A shower can help get ticks off of you and lower your risk of Lyme disease. Try to shower within 2 hours of coming inside.
Use tweezers to remove a tick as soon as you see the tick.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.
Note: Tell the doctor if you get sick after a tick bite. If you or your kids get a rash or fever after getting bitten by a tick, call the doctor. Tell the doctor about the tick bite, when it happened, and where you think you were when you got the bite.