You can take several steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Avoid and exclude mosquitoes

Limit exposure to mosquitoes by:

  • Avoiding outdoor activities when they're most active, dusk to dawn
  • Repairing any tears in the screens on your windows, doors and camping gear
  • Using mosquito netting over strollers and cribs or when sleeping outdoors

Use insect repellent

The most effective insect repellents in the United States include one of three active ingredients:

  • DEET
  • Icaridin (also called picaridin)
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (a plant-based compound)

These repellents temporarily repel mosquitoes and ticks. DEET may offer longer lasting protection. Whichever product you choose, read the label before you apply it. If you're using a spray repellent, apply it outdoors and away from food.

If you're also using sunscreen, put it on first, about 20 minutes before applying the repellent. Avoid products that combine sunscreen and repellent, because you'll likely need to reapply sunscreen more often than repellent. And it's better to use only as much repellent as you need.

Used according to package directions, these products are generally safe for children and adults, with a few exceptions:

  • Don't use DEET-containing products on infants younger than 2 months.
  • Don't let young children get DEET or icaridin-containing products on their hands or faces.
  • Don't use oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under age 3 years.
  • Don't apply repellent under clothing.
  • Don't apply repellent over sunburns, cuts, wounds or rashes.
  • When you go indoors, wash with soap and water to remove any remaining repellent.

Treat clothing and outdoor gear

Permethrin is an insecticide and insect repellent used for additional protection. This product is applied to clothing and outdoor gear, not skin. Check the product label for specific application instructions. Some sporting goods stores sell clothing pretreated with permethrin.

Use protective clothing and gear

Weather permitting, wear:

  • Long sleeves
  • Socks and closed-toe shoes
  • Long pants, possibly tucked into the tops of your socks
  • Light colors
  • A hat that protects your ears and neck or one with mosquito netting that covers your face

Take preventive medication

If you tend to have large or severe reactions to mosquito bites (skeeter syndrome), consider taking a nondrowsy, nonprescription antihistamine when you know you'll be exposed to mosquitoes.

Reduce mosquitoes around your home

Eliminate standing water, which mosquitoes need to breed. To keep your house and yard free of mosquito pools:

  • Unclog roof gutters.
  • Empty children's wading pools at least once a week, and preferably more often.
  • Change water in birdbaths at least weekly.
  • Get rid of old tires in your yard.
  • Empty outdoor flower pots regularly or store them upside down so that they can't collect water.
  • Drain your fire pit if water collects there.
Oct. 22, 2015