SAN ANTONIO – Consumer Reports tested a variety of insect repellents to see which protect against bites from mosquitoes and ticks and the diseases they can spread just in time for summer.
"Your best protection against mosquito and tick-borne diseases, like West Nile or Lyme, is to avoid getting bitten in the first place," said Jeneen Interlandi, with Consumer Reports. "That's why an effective insect repellent is so important."
Consumer Reports looked at a variety of sprays and lotions from different brands. Some contained synthetic chemicals such as DEET, as well as some with picaridin — which is an oil of lemon eucalyptus that can mimic chemicals found in nature.
Consumer Reports also tested plant-based repellents with ingredients such as citronella, lemongrass and cedar oils. The best products protected for more than six hours, while the lowest scoring ones lasting two hours or less.
When it comes to plant-based, so-called natural products, Consumer Reports concluded it is best to avoid them. They generally performed poorly and are not evaluated by the EPA.
"What that means is that the companies that make these products are not required to prove to federal regulators that they work," Interlandi said.
What did make a difference in the tests were the active chemical ingredients.
"Out of a total of 25 products that we've tested, all of the ones that earned our recommendation contained one of just three different active ingredients, and each one at a limited range of concentrations, so 20 percent picaridin, between 15 and 30 percent DEET or 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus.
Two products with DEET got tops scores: Total Home Woodland Scent Insect Repellent with 30 percent DEET from CVS and Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent.
If you want to skip the DEET, the $5 Repel Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus performed almost as well. Testers also recommend the Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent Spray with 20 percent picaridin.
Tests also showed that products that protected against mosquitoes were also effective against ticks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said DEET is safe for use on children older than 2 months, but parents should not apply it to children's hands or near their eyes or mouths.
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