Sign up to receive email updates, action alerts, health tips, promotions to support our work and more from EWG. You can opt-out at any time. [Privacy]


EWG's Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika
April 18, 2016

EWG's Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika: EWG’s Do’s and Don’ts for avoiding bug bites

 Download our Zika tip sheet  |  Read our Zika bug repellent guide  |  Download our tip sheet  |  Download our report

Download PDF Download PDF

EWG's Do's and Don'ts for avoiding bug bites


  • Wear pants, socks, shoes and long sleeves, especially when venturing into heavy brush with likely bug infestations.
  • Take extra precautions to avoid bug bites if you are in a high-risk area for Lyme disease, West Nile virus or other mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses.
  • Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas and place nets over strollers and baby carriers.
  • Read labels to learn about safe usage and protection from bug species known to infest your area.
  • Choose a repellent concentration rated for the time span you’re outdoors, but not longer. 
  • Use products with the lowest effective concentration of repellent chemicals, particularly on children.
  • Consult a physician if you are traveling out of the U.S. or need to use bug repellent daily for prolonged periods.
  • Take extra care with kids. Keep repellents away from young children to reduce risk of accidental swallowing.
  • Send kids to camp with netting for bunks.
  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on your child. Avoid eyes and mouth and use repellent sparingly around ears. Do not apply repellent to children's hands because they sometimes put their hands in their mouths.
  • Use products in lotion, pump or towelette form.
  • Try repellents on a small patch of exposed skin before slathering all over. Check for ticks thoroughly after returning indoors and remove ticks properly.
  • Wash clothing and repellent-coated skin when your kids come come indoors or at the end of the day.

Don’t use:

  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD on children younger than 3 years old.
  • More than 30 percent DEET on anyone.
  • Any bug repellents on children under 6 months.
  • Outdoor “fogger” insecticides. They contain more toxic ingredients than repellents applied to skin.
  • Candles. They may not be effective. They emit fumes that could trigger respiratory problems.
  • Aerosol sprays in pressurized containers. You’ll inhale chemicals, and you could get sprayed in the eyes and face.
  • Repellent mixed with sunscreen. When you reapply sunscreen every two hours as advised, you overexpose yourself to repellent.
  • Bug zappers and treated wristbands.