Choosing an Insect Repellent

Mid-summer means that bugs and mosquitoes will be biting away, necessitating outdoor-lovers to wear insect repellent.

An environmental advocacy group called The Environmental Working Group discusses the safety and toxicity issues that accompany some insect repellent ingredients. The group divides types of insect repellents by age group and health status, as well as what diseases you are trying to protect yourself from.

The group also dispels some facts and myths about certain ingredients in insect repellents. For example, Picardin is not as effective as DEET, but it can provide all day protection from mosquitoes and does not irritate or have a strong odor. DEET, although associated with neurological problems, has a low rate of adverse reactions (1 per 100 million people). It is also considered a reasonable choice for protection against Lyme disease and West Nile Virus at a concentration of 20-30%.

Natural oils like Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus can provide up to 6 hours of insect protection at a concentration of 30%, but should not be used with children under 3 because of lung irritation.

Here are some of their tips for ingredients for specific conditions and diseases for adults:

Adults who want to protect themselves from West Nile Virus should look for repellants with

  • 10-20% Picardin
  • 20% IR3535
  • 7-30% DEET
  • 30-40% Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

Adults who require all day protection from bugs should look for repellants with

  • 20% Picardin
  • 20-30% time-released DEET

Adults who have skin allergies or sensitive skin should look for repellants with 5-20% Picardin, as it is the least likely to irritate your skin.


To check out other tips that the Environmental Working Group has for insect repellants (specifically for Adults, Children, and Pregnant Women), check out their website at:


One thought on “Choosing an Insect Repellent

  1. I have always been a little hesitant in using bug spray. After reading a report done by by ABC News, my views might have changed. David Andrews, lead author on the study and a researcher with EWG, said that “We found them [bug spray] all to be safe, especially if people don’t overdose on the product. And these chemicals do protect people against a lot of rather nasty insects.” With the chance of contracting a disease on the rise, I should start wearing some type of repellent….especially if I am going to be outside for a while. I think everyone should also cover up with pants when they are planning on being outside for long periods of time!

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