SAN ANTONIO – The rains may be welcome, but the mosquitoes -- not so much. To protect your family from itchy bites and bug-borne diseases, you need an insect repellent that works. Consumer Reports put several to the test.
Volunteers put their bare arms into cages filled with disease-free mosquitoes to help Consumer Reports test insect repellent sprays, lotions and wipes.
“The number of bug-borne diseases, like West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, is increasing. And the number of places in the U.S. that the bugs are spreading to is also on the rise,” said Catherine Roberts, health editor of Consumer Reports.
The Consumer Reports tests showed that the products that are effective against mosquitoes are also effective against ticks.
Many of their highest-rated products contain the chemical DEET at concentrations of 15% to 30%.
CR’s two top-rated repellents contain DEET: Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent wipes and Total Home Woodland Scent Insect Repellent from CVS.
“Research has shown that DEET is safe when used as directed,” Roberts said. “But if you’re worried about it and are looking for something more natural, testing shows that products whose active ingredients are essential oils earned a rating of poor for protection against mosquitoes.”
If you don’t want to use DEET, CR found that a better option than essential oil repellents, such as citronella and peppermint, are products containing 20% picaridin or 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus. Research suggests both are safe, though oil of lemon eucalyptus shouldn’t be used on children under 3 years old.