Mosquitoes and mosquito repellents: a clinician's guide

Ann Intern Med. 1998 Jun 1;128(11):931-40. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-128-11-199806010-00013.


This paper is intended to provide the clinician with the detailed and scientific information needed to advise patients who seek safe and effective ways of preventing mosquito bites. For this review, clinical and analytical data were selected from peer-reviewed research studies and review articles, case reports, entomology texts and journals, and government and industry publications. Relevant information was identified through a search of the MEDLINE database, the World Wide Web, the Mosquito-L electronic mailing list, and the Extension Toxicology Network database; selected U.S. Army, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of Agriculture publications were also reviewed. N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET) is the most effective, and best studied, insect repellent currently on the market. This substance has a remarkable safety profile after 40 years of worldwide use, but toxic reactions can occur (usually when the product is misused). When DEET-based repellents are applied in combination with permethrin-treated clothing, protection against bites of nearly 100% can be achieved. Plant-based repellents are generally less effective than DEET-based products. Ultrasonic devices, outdoor bug "zappers," and bat houses are not effective against mosquitoes. Highly sensitive persons may want to take oral antihistamines to minimize cutaneous reactions to mosquito bites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Culicidae* / growth & development
  • DEET / adverse effects
  • DEET / pharmacology
  • DEET / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Insect Bites and Stings / prevention & control*
  • Insect Bites and Stings / therapy
  • Insect Control
  • Insect Repellents* / adverse effects
  • Insect Repellents* / pharmacology
  • Insect Repellents* / toxicity
  • Life Cycle Stages


  • Insect Repellents
  • DEET