‘Tis the season of barbecues, hiking, camping . . . and biting bugs. A good repellent can help you enjoy the outdoors without the company of mosquitoes, ticks, and myriad other stinging, biting critters. But, what are the best repellents among the dozens available at most outdoor stores? Here are the details about the recommendations from Consumer Reports:
At an outside lab commissioned by Consumer Reports, brave testers bared their arms in mosquito-filled cages and let ticks crawl on them. Consumer Reports recorded how long it took for mosquitoes to start biting and for ticks to crawl over treated areas.
These bugs were free of disease, but wild mosquitoes in the United States can carry West Nile virus and Saint Louis encephalitis. Travelers outside the United States might encounter mosquitoes carrying malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. Ticks can spread Lyme disease, human babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Ten insect repellents were tested. The six top choices, all earning a “Recommended” rating from Consumer Reports, worked for at least seven hours:
The first four contain DEET in varying levels.
The Environmental Protection Agency judges DEET safe when used as directed, but it has caused rare toxic reactions when misused. It shouldn’t be applied to infants less than 2 months old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using repellents with DEET concentrations higher than 30 percent on any children. Consumer Reports Health thinks that no one needs a repellent with more than 30 percent DEET.
The active ingredient in Repel is oil of lemon eucalyptus. (It’s not recommended for children younger than 3.)
Almost as effective was Natrapel, which protects with picaridin, a chemical newer than DEET.
Bottom line: Most of the tested products will do the job if you’re going to be outside for only a couple of hours, but look for a highly rated product to protect you on longer excursions.
The six top choices feel and smell somewhat different:
When applying any repellent, follow directions.
For extra protection:
For further guidance, go to ConsumerReportsHealth.org. More-detailed information, including CR’s ratings of prescription drugs, conditions, treatments, doctors, hospitals and healthy-living products, is available to subscribers to that site.