Top-rated bug repellents contain DEET, Consumer Reports says

Tests show picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus also work well

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Now that it's summer, the mosquitoes and ticks are biting.  

In addition to being a nuisance, mosquitoes and ticks can spread potentially dangerous diseases, which are on the rise nationwide. 

Consumer Reports tested bug repellents to help you keep the bugs and the bites away.

"Many of the highest-rated products contain DEET at concentrations of 15 percent to 30 percent. Research has shown that DEET is safe when used as directed, even for kids and pregnant women," said Joan Muratore, of Consumer Reports.

As part of Consumer Reports' expert testing against mosquitoes, a standard dose of repellent was applied to each test subject's forearms. Each subject tested two repellents, one on each arm, by sticking each arm into a cage of 200 disease-free mosquitoes of one species for five minutes. The repellent failed if there were two bites in one exposure period, or one bite in each of two consecutive sessions. 

Not all repellents were tested against ticks, but previous test results and further research indicate that any product that protects from mosquito bites will also likely protect from tick bites.

Consumer Reports' two top-rated repellents contain DEET, Total Home CVS Woodland Scent Insect Repellent and Off Deep Woods Insect Repellent Eight Dry. 

Also performing well in CR's testing were a 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus repellent and a 20 percent picaridin repellent. Research suggests both are safe, although oil of lemon eucalyptus shouldn't be used on children under 3 years old. To get the best protection from any repellent, you should apply them properly according to package directions.

If you  worry about using a chemical like DEET on your children and want to go the natural route with a repellent containing citronella or other essential oils, the Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Reports say DEET with concentrations of 30 percent or less is safe for children when used as directed.

Consumer Reports' tests have shown that most natural products, with the exception of oil of lemon eucalyptus, don't perform well against mosquitoes.

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