Tips for Using Repellents Safely

Posted by: Judit



Regardless of which repellent product used, it is recommended to read the label before use. Usage instructions for repellents vary from country to country. Some insect repellents are not recommended for use on younger children.

Regarding safety please take into consideration the following recommendations: 

  • Read the label and follow all directions and precautions.
  • Only apply insect repellents on the outside of your clothing and on exposed skin. Note: Permethrin-containing products should not be applied to skin.
  • Spray repellents in open areas to avoid breathing them in.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover your clothing and exposed skin. Using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective. Avoid reapplying unless needed.
  • Wash your skin with soap and water to remove any repellent when you return indoors, and wash the clothing before you wear it again.


  • Never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months.
  • Never spray insect repellent directly onto your face. Instead, spray a little on your hands first and then rub it on you face. Avoid the eyes and mouth.
  • Do not spray insect repellent on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Do not use repellent products that combine with sunscreen, it may make the sun protection factor (SPF) less effective.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself from Insect Bites

While you can’t prevent all insect bites, you can reduce the number by following these guidelines:

  • Tell your child to avoid areas that attract flying insects, such as garbage cans, stagnant pools of water, and flowerbeds or orchards.
  • Dress your child in long pants, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, socks, and closed shoes when you know your child will be exposed to insects. A broad-brimmed hat can help to keep insects away from the face. Mosquito netting may be used over baby carriers or strollers in areas where your baby may be exposed to insects.
  • Avoid dressing yourself in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints because they seem to attract insects.
  • Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes, or hair sprays because they may attract insects.
  • Keep door and window screens in good repair.
  • Check your skin at the end of the day if you live in an area where ticks are present.
  • Remember that the most effective repellent for ticks is permethrin. It should not be applied to skin but on your child’s clothing.

Reactions to Insect Repellents

If you suspect that you are having a reaction, such as a rash, to an insect repellent, stop using the product and wash your skin with soap and water. Then call a doctor for help.



Mosquitoes are generally found near water (pools, lakes, birdbaths) and are attracted by bright colors and sweat. Bites result in stinging sensation followed by a small, red, itchy mound with a tiny puncture mark at the center.


Usually found near or around food, garbage, and animal waste. Painful, itchy bumps that may turn into small blisters are characteristic of bites. These bites often disappear in a day but may last longer.


Flea bites are usually identified by the presence of multiple small bumps clustered together, –often where clothes fit tightly (waist, buttocks). Fleas are commonly found in floors, rugs, and are mostly likely to be problematic in homes with pets.


Bedbugs are usually found in cracks in walls or floors, crevices of furniture and bedding. Bedbug bites are characterized by itchy red bumps (which are occasionally topped by a blister) usually 2–3 in a row. Bites are more likely to occur at night. Bedbugs are less active in cold weather.

Fire Ants

Immediate pain and burning sensation is frequently experienced after a bite followed by swelling (up to ½ inch) and cloudy fluid in area of bite. Fire ants usually attack intruders and are commonly found in pastures, meadows, lawns and parks in southern states.

Bees and Wasps

These winged insects are usually found near flowers, shrubs, picnic areas, or beaches. Immediate pain and rapid swelling occur following a sting. A few people have severe reactions, –such as difficulty breathing and hives/swelling all over their body.


Ticks are found in wooded areas. They may be unnoticeably hidden on hair or on skin. When attempting to remove a tick do not use matches, lit cigarettes, or nail polish remover. Grasp the tick near the head with tweezers, and gently pull the tick straight out.

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