Insects (including mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies) can spread diseases (including Zika, dengue, and Lyme disease). Many of these diseases cannot be prevented or treated with a vaccine or medicine. Reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites.
Use insect repellent
Use insect repellents that contain at least 20% DEET for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs. Other repellents protect against mosquitoes but may not be effective against ticks or other bugs.
When using insect repellent, follow the instructions on the package and reapply as directed:
- In general, higher percentages of the active ingredient provide longer-lasting protection; however, this increase in protection time maximizes at about 50% DEET.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply it first, let it dry, and then apply repellent.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
Consider using clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) that are treated with permethrin (an insecticide). You can buy pre-treated clothes or treat your own clothes. If treating items yourself, follow instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
Cover exposed skin
As much as possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks for maximum protection. Some bugs, such as tsetse flies, can bite through thin fabric.
Avoid bugs where you are staying
Choose hotel rooms or other accommodations that are air conditioned or have good window and door screens so bugs can’t get inside. If bugs can get into where you are sleeping, sleep under a permethrin-treated bed net that can be tucked under the mattress. When outdoors, use area repellents (such as mosquito coils) containing metofluthrin or allethrin.
Information for specific groups
Traveling with children
Follow instructions for applying insect repellent on children:
- Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children younger than 3 years old.
- Children should not touch repellent. Adults should apply it to their hands and gently spread it over the child’s exposed skin.
- Do not apply repellent to children’s hands because they tend to put their hands in their mouths.
- Keep repellent out of the reach of children.
For babies under 2 months old, protect them by draping mosquito netting over their carrier or car seat. Netting should have an elastic edge for a tight fit.
Some infections, including Zika, hepatitis E, and malaria, can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus and cause serious birth defects and miscarriage. Pregnant women who must travel should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites while traveling. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Page reviewed on: Mar 09, 2017
Page reviewed by: Jessie L. Leyse, MD