Insect Repellent Choices Made Easy Online for a Safe 4th of July


This 4th of July, millions of Americans will be outdoors during the peak hours when mosquito bites are the most likely—and potentially the most dangerous. One of the difficulties in raising awareness that can protect many from unnecessary mosquito bites is the common fear that some insect repellents—especially those containing DEET—are unsafe and should be avoided. To allay fears and help the public in choosing an insect repellent, the Environmental Protection Agency offers a free online insect repellent search tool that can help you find a repellent that's appealing to you.

Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease that should not be taken lightly. Arboviral encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord usually caused by a viral infection typically transmitted from infected birds and small mammals to humans via a mosquito’ bite.

Although the majority of arboviral encephalitis infections are asymptomatic or have only very mild symptoms, the disease can progress to a more lethal form that damages nerves and can cause lasting damage and/or death. Symptoms of arboviral encephalitis include sudden fever, headache, vomiting, unusual visual sensitivity to light, stiff neck and back, confusion, drowsiness, clumsiness, difficulty walking, and irritability.

In the U.S., the major types of encephalitis include St. Louis encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis and West Nile encephalitis.

St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) — This virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the United States and is transmitted from infected birds to mosquitos to humans. Breeding grounds for mosquitos carrying SLE typically include areas of stagnant water such as discarded tires, polluted pools, roadside ditches, birdbaths and flower pots.

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) — Eastern equine encephalitis is the most serious encephalitis virus in North America and gets its name from the fact that Eastern equine virus typically infects horses in the Eastern United States. However, it can also infect humans. Its habitat and host of origin are freshwater swamps and birds.

Western equine encephalitis (WEE) —The western equine encephalitis virus infects both horses and humans and is typically found in the central and western plains of the United States. This virus is found in birds that live near irrigated fields and farming areas where pools of still water provide a habitable niche for mosquitos that carry and transmit the virus.

LaCrosse (LAC) encephalitis —Incidences of this virus range from the Midwestern to the Mid-Atlantic States where the majority of cases occur in children under 16 years of age. Its primary hosts are chipmunks, tree squirrels and other small vertebrates that live in wooded habitats.

West Nile encephalitis (WNE) — First appearing in the United States in 1999, it is a virus that is more commonly found in Africa and the Middle East and in parts of Europe, Russia, India and Indonesia. Like the St. Louis virus, birds are its animal host of origin.

To protect yourself and your family from a potential encephalitis-carrying mosquito bite, health officials recommend that the public engages in four prevention techniques: habitat removal, physical barriers, avoidance and the use of chemical repellents.

1. Remove potential mosquito habitats

• Eliminate standing water in rain gutters, old tires or tire swings, flower pots and buckets, plastic covers and tarps, or any other type of container that can trap water and provide a home for mosquitoes to breed.

• If you have to have standing water in your backyard such as birdbaths, fountains, wading pools, rain barrels, etc. be sure to change the water at least once a week.

• Keep swimming pool water treated with chemicals and install a pump to keep water circulating in decorative Koi ponds.

2. Use physical barriers

• Fill in, cover or remove all gaps in walls, doors, and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering.

• Repair all holes in screened doors and windows.

• Drape baby carriers and beds with mosquito netting.

3. Avoid getting bitten

• Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.


• Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to cover gaps in your clothing where mosquitoes can get to your skin.

• Avoid the peak mosquito hours if possible by staying indoors at sunrise, sunset, and early in the evening when mosquitoes are most active.

4. Use repellents

• Use EPA-approved insect repellents only.

• Read and follow all directions carefully as some repellents are applied to the skin, whereas others are applied to clothing only.

• Do not apply repellents near eyes and mouth, and apply only sparingly around the ears.

• Never apply repellents over scratches, cuts, wounds or irritated skin.

Online help from the EPA for insect repellent choices

Insect repellents come under a wide range of names, formulations, intended use and protection periods that can be a bit bewildering to say the least. To help the public choose an insect repellent that fits both bite protection needs and concerns over active ingredient choices and concentrations, the EPA offers a free online insect repellent search tool to help individuals make a choice that is right for them.

In the search engine you merely fill in the fields that ask:

• Time length of protection needed

• Protection from mosquitoes, ticks or both

• Product name if known

• Active ingredient desired e.g. DEET, Picaridin, Oil of lemon eucalyptus, etc.

• Company name

• EPA product registration number

After filling out the fields, press “Search” to receive a datasheet of all EPA-recommended insect repellents that fall under the field criteria you entered. Only insect repellent products that meet EPA standards will be provided.

To protect yourself and your family from another bloodsucker this 4th of July, follow this link to an informative article titled “The Number One Rule of Tick Removal for Lyme Disease Prevention.”

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: EPA Insect Repellent Search Tool