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Experts name top listed insect repellent sprays

Posted at 8:01 AM, May 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 08:01:59-04

Keeping safe from the coronavirus is top of mind these days. But with summer fast approaching, there are other diseases besides Covid-19 you need to protect yourself from, including those spread by ticks and mosquitoes.

Consumer Reports can help you pick the best insect repellent to keep you safer outside. Insect repellent sprays, lotions, and wipes are put to the test at CR’s lab. To test effectiveness at keeping mosquitoes and ticks away, panelists stick their arms into cages filled with disease-free mosquitoes.

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. But there’s good news: CR’s tests show that products that are effective against mosquitoes are also effective against ticks.

Many of the highest-rated products contain deet at concentrations of 15 to 30 percent. CR’s two top-rated repellents contain deet: Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent wipes and Total Home Woodland Scent Insect Repellent.

Research has shown that deet is safe when used as directed. 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, a better option than essential oil repellents are products containing 20 percent picaridin or 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Research suggests both are safe, though oil of lemon eucalyptus shouldn’t be used on children under 3 years old. Consumer Reports also wants to remind you that to get the best protection from any of these repellents, you must apply them properly. So follow the directions on the label.