Bug bites can make you more than itchy. Ticks, mosquitoes and certain flies are known to spread some nasty diseases. But U.S. health experts say there are ways to keep pesky insects in their place.
One of the best ways to prevent bug bites is to use an insect repellent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency recommends insect repellents that contain at least 20 percent DEET. These products (which include Cutter Backwoods and Off! Deep Woods) offer protection against mosquitoes, ticks and other bugs.
It’s unclear how effective natural insect repellents are in preventing bug bites, the CDC said.
The agency says other repellents that may only protect against mosquitoes include:
- Picaridin, which is also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin (products include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus).
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol (products include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus).
- IR3535 (products include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart).
The CDC noted in a news release that these “insect repellent brand names are provided for your information only. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cannot recommend or endorse any name-brand products.”
It’s important to use insect repellents properly. Be sure to read all the directions on the product’s packaging and use it as directed, the CDC advises.
Typically, repellents with greater concentrations of the active ingredient provide longer-lasting protection. But DEET concentrations above about 50 percent offer no additional protection, the agency explains.
The CDC offers additional tips to help prevent bug bites:
- If you want both sun and bug protection, apply the sunscreen first and allow it to dry before applying insect repellent.
- Do not apply insect repellent on the skin under clothing.
- Consider using clothing, boots, tents and other gear that are treated with the insecticide permethrin. Pre-treated clothes are available for purchase. Anyone treating clothes at home should follow instructions carefully. Permethrin should not be applied directly to the skin.
- It’s also a good idea to cover up as much as possible. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and a hat can help prevent bug bites. Shirts should be tucked in. Pants can also be tucked into socks for additional protection. Keep in mind, however, that some bugs can bite through thin fabrics.
- When traveling, stay in hotels or other places with air conditioning or good window and door screens.
- If bugs can’t be kept out of sleeping areas, sleep under a permethrin-treated bed net that can be tucked under the mattress.
- When sleeping outside, use mosquito coils or other area repellents that contain metofluthrin or allethrin.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about insect bites and stings.