Types of mosquito repellents recommended by the CDC*
West Nile virus will return to Colorado each summer. The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following products for the best protection against being bitten by a West Nile virus-carrying mosquito. The CDC recommendations include products containing DEET, picaridin, or specific botanical-based repellents.
What is DEET?
- The most effective and most widely studied mosquito repellent.
- An active ingredient that was discovered and developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and patented by the U.S. Army in 1946. An active ingredient is the part of the solution that targets pests.
- A product registered for use by the general public in 1957.
How does DEET work?
- DEET is absorbed through the skin and blocks the skin receptors for carbon dioxide and lactic acid. These two substances released from our bodies attract mosquitoes.
Are there dangers in using DEET?
- DEET does not present health concerns as long as you follow the labeled instructions and precautions.
- Toxic reactions can occur when DEET is misused.
- Pregnant women and children should use DEET with caution. Read the label.
- Do not use DEET on infants younger than two months. Children should not use DEET products with a 30% or higher concentration. Products under 10% concentration may be the most useful for children.
- DEET may irritate skin or leave it feeling greasy.
- Don't use DEET under clothing. Wash clothing exposed to DEET after wearing.
- Solutions with 30% or more concentration of DEET can damage leather and artificial fibers and dissolve plastics
What is Picaridin?
- Picaridin has been shown to be just as effective as DEET in inhibiting mosquito bites. It is an active ingredient that was developed in the 1980s and has just been recommended by CDC in terms of efficacy and safety when used as directed.
How is Picaridin different from DEET?
- Picaridin is about as effective as DEET at similar concentrations. However, picaridin is not oily or sticky and is nearly odorless.
- It is available in low concentrations and needs to be reapplied more frequently.
- Picaridin is safe for children of all ages.
- Both picaridin and DEET offer longer-lasting protection than other repellents.
Botanical-based repellents: lemon eucalyptus and soybean oil
- CDC has indicated that oil of lemon eucalyptus (P-menthane diol; PMD) is now registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. It is comparable in duration of effectiveness to lower concentrations of DEET.
- Earlier studies also indicate that 2% soybean oil has similar levels of effectiveness. The range of DEET concentrations that have been shown to be similar to these other products generally are in the 6.65% to 15% (very low) range.
- The mechanisms of action for oil of lemon eucalyptus and for soybean oil have not been determined.
For more information, visit these websites:
*Recommended by Centers for Disease Control
Information for this fact sheet adapted from CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Protection Agency.