5 insect repellents to keep you safe this summer

At the urgent care clinic where I work, the cold and flu season is winding down, but that means the bugs and bites season is starting. Depending on where you live and what you do, you may be at risk of getting bitten or stung by a variety of insects, especially during the summer months.

a mosquito on a leaf

Mosquitoes are tiny but the diseases they carry can be deadly. Malaria is the most common infection transmitted by mosquitos.

Bug bites and stings cause 3 types of problems-

A local reaction at the site of the bite. This can range from mild redness, swelling and itching to a deep wound that may get infected.

A systemic reaction, meaning symptoms in other organs of the body. This could include nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, dizziness, muscle aches , headache and anaphylaxis (life-threatening  allergic reaction).

An insect transmitted infection

We worry most about this one  (other than an anaphylaxis.) World wide, this is the most serious result of insect bites, leading to millions of illnesses and deaths. Malaria alone infects 200 million people, causing almost 500,000 deaths yearly.

Mosquitoes– bites can transmit malaria; Zika , chikungunya, dengue, West Nile,and yellow fever viruses

Ticks-bites transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia.

close up of a tick

Ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Preventing mosquito and tick bites

Besides wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants and sleeping under nets, the best way to prevent these bites is with effective insect repellents applied to the skin.

These are the 5 products  scientific studies show are most effective.

(This section contains several affiliate links. They are here for your convenience and to support this blog. However, they do not indicate endorsement or advice to use.)

DEET- N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide

  • best documented effectiveness against mosquitoes and also repels ticks, chiggers, fleas, gnats ,and flies.
  • Safe for children over 2 months old
  • Considered safe in pregnancy

Ultrathon Insect Repellent 2 oz (Pack of 2)

Cutter skinsations


  • Protects against mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fleas, and chiggers
  • Safe for children
  • Safe in pregnancy
  • Better tolerated than DEET

Avon SSS Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Aerosol Spray 4 Oz.


  • Works against mosquitoes, deer ticks, flies
  • Safe in pregnancy

Avon SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard PLUS IR3535® Insect Repellent Moisturizing Lotion – SPF 30 Gentle Breeze, 4 oz

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus – p-menthane-3,8-diol

  • Repels mosquitoes, flies, gnats
  • Less effective than DEET for ticks
  • Not for children less than 3 years old
  • Safe in pregnancy

Coleman Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, Deet Free Insect Repellent Spray Pump, 4 fl oz


  • Repels and kills mosquitoes and ticks
  • Is applied to clothing, nets, tents and sleeping bags
  • No evidence of harm to children or in pregnancy

Coleman Gear and Clothing Permethrin Insect Repellent Aerosol, 6 Ounce

Less effective methods include


  • Only effective against mosquitoes, not against ticks
  • Less effective than DEET

Amazon Lights All-natural Premium Citronella Outdoor Garden Incense Sticks with 2.5 – 3.0 Hour Burn Time. Brazilian Andiroba Oil Blended with Citronella, Rosemary & Thyme.

Essential oils

  • Obtained from clove, geraniol, patchouli
  • Limited and variable protection against mosquitoes

Mosquito Guard Repellent Spray (4 FL Oz ) Made with 100% All Natural Plant Based Ingredients – Citronella, Lemongrass Oil , NON- TOXIC, NO DEET. Safe for kids and adults, Insect and Bug Repellent


Blow Away Malaria 

You can help the victims of malaria by donating to the Malaria Medicine Fund. Blessings International gives malaria medicine to medical teams free of charge to use while treating malaria patients all over the world. 100% of donations go to this cause.

Read more and donate at this link

Blessings is working to fight malaria, and you can help!


(Watercress Words endorses Blessings International but has no direct financial interest or connection. This is not a sponsored or affiliate link.)



The Medical Letter

The information in this post was taken from The Medical Letter  where you can read more detail about each product, including duration of action and adverse effects, at this link-

Insect Repellents

The Medical Letter is a nonprofit organization that publishes drug evaluations and treatment recommendations. It does not accept advertisements, grants or donations from the government or pharmaceutical companies.



Listen to a podcast where 2 Docs Talk about

Emerging Vector Borne Disease

A vector is an organism that carries and transmits disease. The term usually refers to insects, but humans and other animals can also be vectors.


4 thoughts on “5 insect repellents to keep you safe this summer

  1. Debra Boudreau

    Wow! Thanks Aletha…this is so helpful. California has received so much needed rain this spring. But along with it came ferocious mosquitos. We normally don’t have many and are totally unprepared. I love the eucalyptus oil idea. I am forwarding this to our neighbors.


    1. Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D. Post author

      You’re welcome Debra. We had such a mild winter here in Oklahoma that the mosquitoes arrived back early, plus we’re having lots of rain now. So we needed the info also. I hope it helps you and your neighbors.


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