There are many EPA approved drugs and repellents that can be used by people suffering from bedbug infestations; ideal for use when one hasn’t had a decent night’s rest thanks to the annoying critters. How to repel bed bugs from skin is also a primary concern for travelers who have no choice but to spend a night or two in an infested motel room.In this guide, we will consider some of the best bedbug repellent products that can help repel bed bugs from skin and clothes.
EPA approved bedbug repellents
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved several products containing following ingredients for long lasting protection from bedbugs and other parasites like ticks, mosquitoes etc.
- DEET-DEET is short for N-N-diethyl , 3-mehyl benzamide. Products containing DEET are readily available in the grocery stores, home improvement shops, on camping gear websites and so on.
- Picardin- Chemical name for this is 2-2 hydroxyethyl-1piperidinecarboxylic acid 1 methylpropyl ester. It is a very effective product that is also available outside the United States.
- Oil of lemon and eucalyptus- (OLE) Chemical name of this is paramenthane 3,8 dioxyl. EPA categorizes these repellents as biopesticides which means they are derived from or are synthetic versions of organic/natural materials. OLE based products are not recommended for use on skin of children aged 3 years or below as well as on pregnant or nursing women.
The tests conducted on these repellents show that they are quite effective for repelling bedbugs from the skin and generally offer protection from all kinds of insect bites for up to 4 hours. The EPA therefore recommends reapplication of the product, especially since different people experience variation in protection.If, despite applying products according to label instruction one continues to experience bites, it is best to change it or leave the area having the bed bugs.
Bedbug repellents for travelers
People traveling to areas known for bedbugs must purchase bedbug repellents before departing their hometowns. They can buy the aforementioned products in camping/sporting goods sections of large departmental stores or even grocery shops. When purchasing bedbug repellents for skin and clothes, it is essential to look out for active ingredients mentioned above. Some products may even be available internationally under different brand names.
Repelling bedbugs from clothes
Permethrin based products are the best bedbug repellents to be used on clothes, hats, shoes, jackets, nets, etc. The EPA has specifically allowed brands like Repel ®and Permanone and Sawyer® containing permethrin for treating camping gear, beds, mattresses etc. Today, clothing already treated with Permethrin is also available commercially -Shield®, BugsAway® etc are some names in these though they may not be the most comfortable for use when sleeping. That being said, if you are suffering from bedbugs at a campsite or at an infested motel, then it is better to wear these items in order to get a muc- needed night’s rest. Permethrin must not be applied directly to skin but only on the bedding, camping gear, on bed bags etc.
If you are treating your clothes using Permethrin based products, do so at least 24-48 hours before travel so there is plenty of time for the items to dry.Most treated clothes will repel mosquitoes, chiggers etc apart from bedbugs for several days, until you wash them.Commercially available pre-treated insecticide-based clothes can repel bugs for up to 50 washes.
Precautions to take when using repellents to repel bedbugs from skin
Travelers and people suffering from massive bedbug infestations at home must take following precautions when using insecticides:
- Apply the products mentioned above as per instruction on their label. Always use the products on the skin or clothes and never under the clothing.
- Avoid using these products near broken skin, wounds, injuries, blisters or even near the eyes. If contact occurs, wash immediately with warm water and soap. Use the repellents sparingly near the ears and avoid spraying near the mouth.
- Always wash your hands after applying the insecticide.
- Children must be taught all safety issues about the proper use of insecticides. It is best that adults take the cream/lotion or spray and spread it over their hands first before applying it on the child’s exposed body parts or clothing. Avoid use of these products on the child’s hands. In the morning, wash the child’s hands or best bathe the child to remove the residual bedbug repellent products. Also wash all of the treated clothing in hot water.
- It is essential to use only the required amount of repellent on the skin and hands; but if you find that you or your child is still being bitten, then you may apply a bit more.
If you or your loved ones are unable to repel bedbugs from skin despite the use of these products, it is best to wash the bitten skin with warm water and soap and apply some hydrocortisone cream on the rash to prevent itching and swelling. We have covered bedbug bites treatment in articles here and here. Use these remedies to prevent further complications.
Herbal essential oils to repel bedbugs from skin
Many people dislike the use of chemicals on skin to repel bedbugs. If your house has been or is being treated for bedbugs with the bedbug heat treatment, you can apply some lavender essential oils to your arms, legs, upper torso and the pulse points to repel bugs effectively while sleeping. Never use essential oils (especially the purest varieties) directly on the skin. It is best to dilute these oils using olive oil or coconut oil.
Remember: hungry bedbugs will still bite you despite your best intentions and even the most effective bug repellent product can be rendered ineffective. If bedbug bites are not letting you sleep, it is best to isolate your bed by using traps on the bed’s legs or by using mattress encasements. These are the most effective ways to repel bed bugs from skin.