Mosquitoes: Safe repellant and protection

Mosquitoes: Safe repellant and protection

By: Dr. Lia C. Rodriguez, MD FAAP
Medical Director, Texas Children’s Health Plan

The recent Zika virus epidemic has increased awareness of mosquito born illnesses. Currently, the biggest risk of infection with Zika is for women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy and their partners. Nevertheless, mosquitos can also carry other illnesses and create discomfort. There are several ways we can advise families to protect themselves and their children from mosquito bites.

Advising environmental control is one important way. Mosquitos breed in standing water. Ensuring that there are no stagnant pools of water in the areas around their homes, such as small amounts of water inside tires, unused flower pots or other containers, helps control the mosquito population. If opening windows, families should ensure the window have screens without holes in them in order to prevent the mosquitos from entering the home.

Another way to prevent bites is to encourage families to wear protective clothing when going outdoors, such as light shirts with long sleeves and long pants. We can also educate families on the appropriate use of insect repellents. Repellents should not be used on children under two months of age. These infants should be kept in protective clothing, or a mosquito net can be put over their stroller when outdoors.

Many different mosquito repellent products are available. Encourage families to follow the directions on the canister. Parents should spray the repellent onto their own hands and apply to the child’s face. Do not allow children to apply repellent themselves, and never apply on their hands. Additionally, children should always wash their hands when returning inside. The different ingredients in insect repellents last for differing amounts of time and should be re-applied as needed. Combination sunscreen and insect repellents are not recommended, as they need to be re-applied at different rates. If using both, sunscreen should be applied first then insect repellent. While sunscreen does not reduce the effectiveness of mosquito repellents, mosquito repellents containing DEET can reduce the effectiveness of sunscreen. Products containing less than 10 percent of the active ingredients are usually only effective for 1-2 hours. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using DEET products that contain 10 to 30 percent DEET for children. Products with higher concentration provide longer protection.

Active Ingredient Examples of Brands
DEET Off, Cutter
Picaridin (KBR 3023, Bayrepel, icaridin) Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft, Bug Guard Plus
Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD Repel, OFF! Botanicals
IR3535 Skin Smart, Skin So Soft, Bug Guard Plus Expedition


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