The warm weather of the Spring and Summer seasons is known for fun and outdoor activities. Events such as festivals, picnics, barbecues, family reunions, concerts, and other outdoor festivities are plentiful.
Weather permitting, enjoying the outdoors is healthy and rejuvenating. Aside from poor weather conditions, there are enemies lurking to make your outdoor event miserable. Those enemies are biting and stinging insects. Gnats and mosquitoes can absolutely ruin your event, causing people to leave early and cling to a horrible memory of your event.
With a new vector-borne disease scare seeming to surface each year from mosquito bites, it's more important than ever to protect yourself from mosquitoes. Since most people attending your outdoor events will likely forget to bring their own bug spray, giving out a promotional insect repellent is a perfect fit!
But what type of insect repellent should you buy? What types of insects do you really need to repel? What types of active ingredients should you ensure your insect repellent contains? See below for answers, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What are the insects I need to deter with insect repellent?
Mosquitoes - These pesky flying insects probably come to the top of your mind when thinking about annoying insects. They are more than simply annoying though; they can spread dangerous diseases through their bites. They are responsible for diseases such as West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, and Chikungunya virus. Dengue is also a disease spread by mosquitoes; however, while it is rare in the continental U.S., it is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics.
Ticks - Wooded areas and terrain with heavy brush are common areas where ticks can reside. Ticks are responsible for several diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), tularemia, ehrlichiosis, and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Symptoms of many of these illnesses can be delayed up to a month. The highest occurrence of tick bites are in the Spring and Summer and are most prevalent in the Eastern half of the U.S. and California.
Fleas - Woods, grass, and brush are homes for fleas, until they find a suitable host such as your dog or cat. The most significant disease spread by these annoying little parasites in the U.S. is bubonic plague. Yes, bubonic plague is still a thing.
Flies - As one of the most abundant flying insects, especially when food is involved, flies are another type of insect that can cause disease. Because a single housefly can carry more than 1 million bacteria on it's body, a fly can transmit quite a few diseases to humans. A few of the more common diseases include: cholera (Vibrio cholera), typhoid fever (Salmonella spp.), traveler's diarrhea (Escherichia coli), and dysentery and diarrhea - also known as shigellosis (Shigella spp.).
What are the best active ingredients for insect repellent?
The following four active ingredients have been recommended by the CDC based upon Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies to help reduce the chances of bites from disease-carrying mosquitoes.
DEET - (chemical name: N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) - This has been the most common active ingredient for insect repellents over the past few decades, including the brands, OFF!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon. DEET does NOT kill insects, but it does a great job repelling them reducing the chances of them biting you. Common concentrations for skin application range from 4-40%, with a few applications up to 100%. The CDC says that concentrations over 50% provide no added protection. Higher concentrations aren't more effective in repelling mosquitoes, but they do provide a longer lasting effect. DEET is toxic if ingested. See the DEET fact sheet for more info.
IR3535 - (chemical name: 3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl] - Several popular non-DEET formulas that include IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart. There have been no harmful effects to humans or the environment linked to IR3535. This chemical is not toxic if ingested. Here are a few insect repellents with IR3535.
Picaridin - (chemical name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester). A couple of common insect repellents containing Picaridin include Cutter Advanced and Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus. This chemical has been rated with a low toxicity if ingested and has been deemed safe for human skin use. Studies have also shown Picaridin to have no measurable effects on the environment.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD - (PMD chemical name: para-menthane-3,8-diol) - PMD is a synthesized version of OLE. Repel and Off! Botanicals are two popular insect repellents containing PMD. OFF! Botanicals uses PMD, while Repel uses a combination of both oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and PMD. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is the only natural ingredient on the list of active ingredients recommended by the EPA and CDC to repel mosquitoes.
All-Natural Insect Repellents
There are many natural ingredients said to help repel insects; however, oil of lemon eucalyptus is the only all-natural ingredient condoned by the EPA. Other natural ingredients that have been used by people include Oil of Citronella, Oil of Peppermint, Oil of Lemongrass, Oil of Soybean, Oil of Cedar, Oil of Geranium, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Clove, Cajeput, Lavendar, witch hazel, and many more. There is little scientific data proving the effectiveness of these natural ingredients (except for oil of lemon eucalyptus). So, if insect repellents don't have one of the four active ingredients sanctioned by the CDC, use at your own risk!
Find all of our promotional insect repellents here.