CDC Guidelines on Preventing Bug Bites


Reducing one’s exposure to bug bites is crucial, since many the diseases spread by such bites cannot be prevented or treated with vaccines or medicine.

The CDC is providing guidelines on the prevention of bites from insects, including mosquitos, ticks, fleas, and some flies, which may spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and Lyme. Reducing one’s exposure to bug bites is crucial, according to the agency, since many the diseases spread by such bites cannot be prevented or treated with vaccines or medicine.

Viruses such as dengue and malaria are primarily spread through an infected mosquito, and may lead to symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and body aches and pains. More severe cases are considered a medical emergency. There is neither a vaccine to prevent dengue nor a treatment and this virus can only be prevented through proper precaution. Malaria, however, can be prevented by assessing the risks of an area of travel with one’s health care professional and taking proper antimalarial medicine if needed.1

According to the CDC, the Zika virus is also spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, but many of those infected will not have symptoms or will have mild symptoms, including fever, rash, headache, joint pain, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain.1Like dengue, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika and no treatment.

Pregnant women, or women who may become pregnant should take extra precaution in travel areas with a risk of Zika or malaria, since these diseases can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and should consult with doctors on the risks and possible consequences of travelling to such areas. Because infection during pregnancy can cause severe brain defects, the CDC recommends that pregnant women do not travel to areas with Zika outbreaks.

In order to prevent and treat bug bites, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Use insect repellent that contains 20 to 30% DEET. If you are planning to wear sunscreen, apply it first and wait for it to dry before applying insect repellent. Avoid sunscreen that contains insect repellent, as sunscreen must be applied liberally and often while insect repellant should be applied sparingly.2
  • Wear appropriate clothing such as long-sleeved pants and shirts. For additional protection, pull your socks over your pants and tuck your shirt into your pants.
  • Use bed nets if sleeping outdoors.2
  • Pay attention to outbreaks
  • Treat clothing with 0.5% permethrin. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Follow the safety instructions carefully on the repellent’s label, as there may be restrictions if using with children.


  1. Avoid bug bites. CDC website. Accessed April 16, 2019.
  2. Tips to prevent and treat bug bites. American Academy of Dermatology Association website. Accessed April 16, 2019.

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