Banish Bugs

Late spring and summer in Oregon means the bugs-from mosquitos to wasps-are just starting to become nusances. So how can you keep them away and what should you do if they bite? Former pharmacist turned health educator Ronda Gates stopped by to offer her advice.

Note: Insect repellents do not work against bees

Despite marketing materials that insist they work, most "natural" products (lemon oil, etc.) do not.

Insect repellents for flying insects (mosquito, biting fly)

Insect repellents are divided into two categories:

  1. Those for preventing bites.
  2. Those for treatment after the bite.





Anti-itch products applied topically to the skin including






DEET was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 and registered for use by the general public in 1957. Approximately 140 DEET containing products, produced by almost 40 different companies, are currently registered with EPA.

A synthetic biochemical (made in a lab) that is an effective alternative to DEET Developed to be more pleasant to use, it is odorless, with a light, clean feel. Picaridin provides long lasting protection against mosquitoes and other flying insects (but not bees).

The best insect repellent on the market is Off! Deep Woods which has 25% DEET and lasts up to 5 hours without having to reapply. It’s appropriate for hiking in the woods

The best insect repellent on the market are Skin So Soft related products sold mostly by AVON and products with the CUTTER label.

10 percent concentration or less for children

Low, if any, toxicity

Not as useful to prevent tick bites as products containing premetrin.

Will not repel ticks.

Note: Although promoted to be pesticide free and sustainably grown, most "natural" products do not work on skin. This includes vitamin B, lemon, rosemary, cedar, citronella and other "natural" products.



Insect Repellents and Children

Use common sense. To help keep children safe from insect bites:

  • Never use insect repellents on children under two months of age.
  • Use a ten percent solution or less of DEET containing products.
  • Read the label before applying insect repellent.
  • Apply to all exposed skin (not under clothing), except near the eyes, mouth, open cuts or hands of small children (who may rub their eyes or put their fingers in their mouth).
  • Do not apply over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  • If using a spray repellent, apply it outside. Avoid inhaling the spray. Apply it to your hands then apply to children’s skin. Don’t spray it around food.
  • Keep children under age two covered with light colored clothing (long sleeve shirt, long pants, socks and a hat) less likely to attract bugs
  • Avoid using any scented soaps or other products on your baby, since the fragrances can also attract insects.
  • Wash off insect repellents as soon as possible.
  • Avoid areas with insects nest.
  • Bathe after you return home. Wash clothes sprayed with repellents.


Tick Repellent products containing permethrin should be applied to clothing, not to skin.

You don’t have to have a pond or marsh in your backyard to breed mosquitoes. A shallow puddle, infant pool, empty bucket or old tin can are potential mosquito hatcheries. To eliminate as many of their breeding sites as possible:

Ten Ways to Create a "Bite-Free" backyard.

1. Keep your gutters clear and free flowing.

2. Keep child-size swimming pools drained when not in use.

3. Continually refresh and replenish the water in swimming pools and birdbaths.

4. Store unused flowerpots, watering cans, and empty plastic containers in your garage or shed.

5. Keep your lawn and shrubs trimmed to minimize breeding habitat for mosquitoes.

6. Level your yard in low spots to eliminated puddles and pooling water.

7. Remove old stumps.

8. Use a permethrin-based mosquito spray on your lawn, trees, shrubs, and flowers.

9. Apply a DEET or Picaridin based insect repellent, to exposed skin. An effective repellent will contain 7% to 35% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).

  1. Whenever you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's DIRECTIONS FOR USE, as printed on the product.

Ronda Gates is a Lake Oswego, OR, based pharmacist turned health educator whose entertaining and educational motivational speeches about many areas of health have led her to be described as "the Erma Bombeck of health"! To learn more about Ronda visit You can reach her via her business, LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates, 503.697.7572.



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