Prevent Mosquito and Tick Bites

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Spending time together outdoors is good for the whole family. Don’t let mosquito and tick bites ruin your fun.

Most bug bites are harmless, but some mosquitoes and ticks spread germs that can make you sick. Some of these germs are very serious – and may even be deadly.

  • Mosquitoes spread viruses like Zika, West Nile, chikungunya, Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and dengue.
  • Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are just 2 of the serious diseases you can get from tick bites.

Protect yourself from mosquito and tick bites.

When you spend time outside, take these steps to protect yourself:

  • Use insect repellent (also called bug spray) on your skin and clothing. Find the right insect repellent for you.  
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks to cover your skin.
  • Check everyone for ticks after spending time outside.
  • Take a shower within 2 hours after being outside to help wash away ticks.
  • Put dry clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks.

Protect your pets, too.

Ticks also carry germs that can make pets sick. And when pets bring ticks into the house, those ticks can bite you, too.

  • Check your pets for ticks every day, especially after they've been outdoors. If you find a tick, remove it right away.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about the best way to protect your pets from ticks. Ask your veterinarian before using any tick prevention products on your pets.
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Take Action!

Take Action: Home Tips

Keep mosquitoes out of and away from your home.

Use screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Repair any holes in the screens, and don’t leave doors propped open.

Mosquitoes lay eggs in or near standing water. To help keep them away from your home:

  • Once a week, check items in or near your home that can hold water ­– like planters, wading pools, or trash cans. Empty and scrub, turn over, or cover the items.
  • Get rid of things you’re not using that can collect water, like tires or old toys.
  • Tightly cover water storage containers, like rain barrels.
  • Add chemicals that kill mosquito eggs (called larvicides) to water that won’t be used for drinking and can’t be covered or dumped out, like a pond or fountain.

Keep ticks away from your home.

Many types of ticks live in areas with woods, bushes, or high grass – so if you have a yard, it’s important to keep it clear. Animals like mice, dogs, and deer may also carry ticks in their fur.

To help keep ticks away from your home:

  • Clear bushes, tall grasses, and fallen leaves from around your home.
  • Mow the lawn often.
  • Use wood chips or gravel to separate your patio or play equipment from wooded or brushy areas.
  • Remove plants that attract deer and put up a fence to keep deer out of your yard.
  • Consider applying tick control products to your yard. You can do this yourself or hire a pest control company.

Learn more about how to keep ticks out of the yard through landscaping.

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Take Action: Use Insect Repellant

Use insect repellent.

Insect repellent makes it harder for mosquitoes and ticks to find you.

What type of repellent do I need?

  • Use an insect repellent that’s registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Find an insect repellent that’s right for you.
  • To prevent mosquito and tick bites, use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
  • Use a spray with .5% permethrin on your clothes, shoes, and camping gear to repel and kill ticks and mosquitoes. Never use permethrin directly on your skin.

How do I use insect repellent?

  • Always follow the instructions on the label.
  • Apply it to your exposed skin before you go outside.
  • Apply sunscreen first, then put on insect repellent.
  • Don’t use insect repellent that has sunscreen already mixed in. 
  • Don’t spray insect repellent directly on your face. Instead, spray it in your hands and carefully rub it on your face.
  • Don't put insect repellent on your eyes or mouth, or on skin that's cut or irritated. Don't put repellent on children's hands, so they won't rub it in their eyes or mouth. 
  • Don’t use insect repellent on babies under 2 months old. Instead, cover their stroller or car seat with mosquito netting.
  • Don’t use OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.

When you go back inside, be sure to wash insect repellent off skin with soap and water.

For more tips, check out this fact sheet about preventing mosquito bites [PDF - 700 KB].

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Take Action: Cover Up and Check Yourself

Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.

Cover up your skin to prevent mosquito bites.

Take a shower after being outside in an area that might have ticks.

A shower can help get ticks off you and lower your risk of Lyme and other diseases ticks can spread. Try to shower within 2 hours of going back inside.

Check for ticks after spending time outside – even in your yard.

Check everybody in the family, including pets. Check the entire body, especially:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Behind the knees and in the groin (crotch)
  • Around the waist and inside the belly button
  • In and around hair

Get more tips on doing a tick check [PDF - 82 KB].

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Take Action: Treat Tick Bites

Use tweezers to remove a tick as soon as you see it.

  • Grab the tick near its head or mouth (the part closest to your skin).
  • Gently pull the whole tick straight out. Be careful not to crush or twist the tick.
  • Clean your hands and the tick bite with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  • Never try to use other things, like nail polish or a hot match, to kill and remove a tick.

Get rid of the tick safely.

Get rid of the tick by putting it in rubbing alcohol or flushing it down the toilet. You can also put a tick in the trash, but only if it’s in a sealed container or wrapped tightly in tape.

Remember, never crush a tick with your fingers. Get more tips on removing ticks

Tell the doctor if you get sick after a tick bite.

If you or your child gets a rash or fever after getting bitten by a tick, call your doctor. Tell the doctor about the tick bite, when it happened, and where you think you were when you got the bite.

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Take Action: Travel Safely

Protect yourself from mosquito bites when you travel.

Learn more about preventing mosquito bites when you are traveling [PDF - 387 KB].

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