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DEET is an effective mosquito deterrent, but there are many reasons it cannot be used. Per the CDC, cuts, eczema, and being a kid are all problems if you want to use DEET.

What proven alternatives are there to DEET that can be used for people with open wounds or eczema?

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possible duplicate of What can I do about those obnoxious biting flies? – Rory Alsop Feb 8 '12 at 9:17
@RoryAlsop -- Not duplicate because the other question is for biting flies. Not all bugs are repelled with the same methods (for instance DEET is only so-so against ticks in my experience). However, thank you for explaining why you voted to close – Russell Steen Feb 9 '12 at 1:30
The latest treatment I've seen is Permethrin. You spray it on your clothes, not on your skin, so it may be better for people with skin issues. I'm only posting a comment because I don't have any facts to back this up. – BMitch Oct 16 '12 at 2:32
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Besides DEET, the CDC lists:

  • Picaridin (Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan (outside the United States))
  • Lemon Eucalyptus oil (PMD)** (no examples given)
  • IR3535 (Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition)

In particular, Picaridin seems to be a viable alternative:

Of the active ingredients registered with the EPA, CDC believes that two have demonstrated a higher degree of efficacy in the peer-reviewed, scientific literature (See Publications page.). Products containing these active ingredients typically provide longer-lasting protection than others:

  • DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide)
  • Picaridin (KBR 3023)

Oil of lemon eucalyptus [active ingredient: p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)], a plant- based repellent, is also registered with EPA. In two recent scientific publications, when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against mosquitoes found in the US it provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET.

**: Caveat emptor:

“Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil) is not the same product; it has not undergone similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy, is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent, and is not covered by this recommendation.

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I'm confused. It seems like the first item in your "alternatives to DEET" list is DEET... – Russell Steen Feb 8 '12 at 0:18
@RussellSteen It was primarily in there to retain a complete list, but I've removed it. – Kevin Feb 8 '12 at 0:22
+1 -- totally awesome answer, literature even. Thank you for unconfusing it for me. – Russell Steen Feb 8 '12 at 0:25

I use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus(OLE) and it works great. Cutter, Repel, and Coleman all make products that contain the EPA and CDC approved OLE.

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The British Army stationed in Scotland use Avon Skin So Soft (I kid you not!). The locals swear by it too.

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I've used this with some success as well. – Russell Steen Oct 15 '12 at 15:41

DEET is really evil, it is a dissolvent that is able to etch the plastic cap!

I used citronella essential oil, it helps but I'd say only 50%... and for short time (few hours). Now I'm looking for a solution using vitamin B1.

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