No one expects you to let bugs eat you alive while you’re enjoying the outdoors this summer. But if you’re going to use insect repellent, here are a few things to remember before choosing and using that bug spray or lotion.
Pick the most effective ingredients
When you’re choosing insect repellent look for either the active ingredients DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or picaridin (KBR 3023). DEET and picaridin provide the best protection against biting mosquitoes, but DEET is the most common ingredient found in repellents.
Melissa Piliang, MD, Cleveland Clinic Department of Dermatology, recommends DEET. “Higher concentrations of DEET give you longer-lasting protection if you’re staying out several hours.” Products with DEET typically offer different formulas containing 5 to 100 percent of the chemical, giving you approximately 90 minutes to 10 hours of protection.
When and how to apply
Mosquitoes are most active from dusk till dawn, so Dr. Piliang stresses that it’s most important to apply repellent every time you go out during those hours.
In many parts of the country mosquitoes also bite during the day, so apply it whenever you go outdoors for an extended period. If you’re sweating or getting wet, you may need to re-apply more frequently than the hours indicated on the product. (Follow the directions on the package.)
Apply only to exposed skin; Dr. Piliang says to concentrate on ankles, feet, neck, ears, arms and legs. (Don’t apply to skin that is covered by clothing.) Heavy application isn’t necessary. And don’t spray or pump repellent directly onto your face — spray your hands and spread carefully on your face, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
Back in the great indoors
No surprise: it’s important, says Dr. Piliang, to wash off insect repellent once outdoor activities are done for the day. Though DEET is EPA-registered, it’s still, after all, a chemical.
There’s still plenty of summer left — no need to let biting insects get in the way of enjoying it. Use insect repellents safely, and keep the bugs at bay.