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Protection from Biting Insects, Ticks and Mosquitoes

 
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 2,000 cases of West Nile in 46 states, compared with 200 cases of Zika. But Lyme disease, spread by ticks, is more common than any mosquito-borne pathogen. The CDC estimates 300,000 Americans developed Lyme last year. Its range has spread by more than 300 percent in the past three decades alone. Learn the options you have to fight the bite of both ticks and mosquitoes and choose the right protection for you. Shop all mosquito & tick repellents >

DEET Repellents

Developed by the military more than a half-century ago, DEET is the most common and effective repellent. Although its name sounds similar, it is not related to the pesticide DDT, which was banned in the United States in the 1970s. DEET was thought to repel by creating a smell that mosquitoes and ticks disliked. Some studies show that it confuses the pest's sense of smell. Recent studies suggest that DEET jams certain odor receptors that the insect uses to detect breath, because its effectiveness increased in combination with natural compounds found in human breath. While the exact nature of DEET's mode of action is still a bit of a mystery, it seems that this jamming of olfactory receptors is on the right track.

Permethrin Repellents

A staple in keeping ticks away, Permethrin is a synthetic chemical that acts like naturally occurring pyrethrins extracted from chrysanthemums. Unlike a typical repellent, permethrin is actually toxic to insects and ticks. It excites the nervous system if touched or ingested to the point of causing muscle spasms, paralysis and death. Although it is more toxic to insects than to people and dogs, most permethrin products should only be applied to clothing and gear and not to skin directly.

Picaridin Repellents

Picaridin is a more recent compound that was first made in the 1980s. Less is known about the actual means of repelling, but it seems to keep mosquitoes from sensing their prey. Some studies show that picaridin stimulates the tiny sensory hairs on antennae that prevent it from recognizing animals as a potential meal. Picaridin products are similar in effectiveness to products containing DEET, but are less likely to cause skin irritation.

IR3535 Repellents

Another newcomer, IR3535 was approved by the USEPA in 1999 after being used in Europe for some 10-20 years prior. While most repellents are designed to mask scent, IR3535 makes use of a mechanism researchers have named the "repellent effect". IR3535 contains an amplified version of beta-alanine, a naturally occurring amino acid, to intensify a signal that chemically tells mosquitoes to stay away. Keep in mind that IR3535 is a brand name that isn't always used for labeling purposes. These products may list the ingredient as 3-(N-n-Butyl-N-acetyl) aminopropionic acid ethyl ester, Ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninate or Ethyl Butylacetylaminopropionate.

Natural Repellents

Lemon eucalyptus formulas provide a natural alternative to repellents. The main ingredient is the aromatic oil extracted from leafs and twigs of the gum eucalyptus plant. Being natural, it is considered a safer alternative to synthetic repellents. Not much is known about how lemon eucalyptus repels, but it is believed that the strong odor masks signals given off by hosts.

Resources

Safe use of insect repellents
Get information about how to use repellents safely and effectively.
Learn More >
Lyme Disease FAQs
Find answers to your frequently asked questions about Lyme Disease. Learn how to identify the symptoms of Lyme Disease now.
Learn More >
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