The appearance of that big yellow globe in the sky, not only heralds frolicking in outdoor activities, but also, an invite for insects to delight in mealtime. And unfortunately for humans, a handful of insects consider us the buffet! Shielding our skin from bites takes preemptive thought and shopping. Yet, many people are wary of the chemicals in bug spray being more harmful than the bite itself. For this reason, it’s best to be knowledgeable about the chemicals you are dealing with and the options out there.
DEET (N-diethyl-meta-toluamide): helps to block insect smell receptors, to confuse them on their human skin target. DEET is typically in 20-100% concentrations, with the later offering up to 12 hours of protection. However, the CDC recommends 30-50% to protect against bite-induced diseases. The health concern with DEET use is that 30% or more people are afflicted with rashes, disorientation, or seizures. It should not be used in babies younger than two months and only 30% or lower concentration in kids. However, it is considered the most effective in its job as a repellent against mosquito and tick bites and safe in a 20-50% concentration.
Brands: Off! Family Care (15% DEET) or Deep Woods (DEET 25%), Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon.
Picaridin (2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester): is a synthetic repellant similar to the black pepper plant chemical piperine and also works by blocking insects sense of smell for their prey. Picaridin may cause irritation of skin or eyes, is non-toxic, and advised to be safe in children. A 20% Picaridin spray will last 8-14 hours and provides similar protection to DEET.
Brands: Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, Fisherman’s Formula, Natrapel.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE or PMD): this ingredient is also used to confuse insect sense of smell and has been reported to be as effective as a 20% concentration of DEET against U.S. type mosquitos. Concentrations between 20-50% can provide 2-12 hours of protection. Side effects may be eye or skin irritation. It is advised by the CDC not to use in children under age 3. This type of repellant is advised not to be used when risk of West Nile Virus is high.
Brands: Repel Lemon Eucalyptus,
Botanical Repellants (castor oil, cedar oil, citronella oil, clove oil, geraniol oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, rosemary oil and soybean oil): The effectiveness of these is debatable and varies from repelling insects for a few hours to not at all. There is very little data on botanicals as the EPA has classified them as “minimum risk” pesticides, thus has not required registration and testing. This means, their effectiveness and safety has not been sufficiently tested. Many of these botanicals are known to cause an allergic response when used on skin.
Brands: California Baby Natural Bug Blend, Badger Anti Bug Spray, Babyganics Natural Insect Repellent.
Overall, a knowledgeable choice is the best choice for you.
For further information in protecting your skin, please see the latest from the CDC at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/the-pre-travel-consultation/protection-against-mosquitoes-ticks-other-arthropods.