Best Insect Repellent for Mosquitoes
Bug Experts Rate Products to Keep West Nile Virus at Bay
WebMD News Archive
April 8, 2003 -- West Nile virus is nothing to fool with -- and
this year's mosquito season is approaching fast. But a good insect repellent
can literally be a lifesaver. Consumer Reports has sized up the
offerings -- from DEET to Skin-So-Soft.
Overall, insect repellents containing DEET and permethrin are
the most effective, states the report, which appears on the May issue of the
West Nile virus swept the U.S. last year and has killed 274
people since first reaching its shores in 1999. The majority of people who are
bit by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus will not know they have been
Only about 1% of people develop severe West Nile virus
infection -- primarily elderly people and others with weakened immune systems.
The latest evidence shows that muscle weakness and a rare, polio-like muscle
disorder might be early signs of the potentially deadly West Nile virus.
Products containing DEET -- N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide -- are
the best insect repellents on the market, according to the Consumer
Reports' cover story.
In their study for Consumer Reports, three medical
entomologists judged insect repellents with a range of DEET concentrations from
7% to 100% -- as well as insect repellents without DEET. They exposed their
repellent-treated arms to 200 mosquitoes for 3 minutes, then counted the number
of bugs that bit them. If none bit, the testers repeated the test every
half-hour until at least one mosquito bit during two successive exposures.
"[DEET] does not kill bugs, but the vapors discourage them
from landing or climbing on you," the story states. "Deet is generally
acknowledged as the most effective mosquito repellent there is. ... Generally,
products with about 30% deet have proven most effective for the longest
periods, and they are considered safe for adults and children age 2 months and
Of the insect repellents tested, here's how long they fought
Woods for Sportsmen
Ultra 6 Hours
Skintastic with Sunscreen SPF 30
So-Soft Bug Guard/ Sunblock
(contains no DEET)
Insect repellents using plant oils such as citronella, soybean, coconut, and
geranium "provided little if any protection," the report states.
Here's another safe bet: Insect repellents intended for use on
clothing -- not on skin -- can provide long-lasting protection when you're
wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. Repel Permanone, which
contains permethrin, kills bugs on contact, the report states.
In the Consumer Reports' study, the insect
repellent Repel Permanone kept all mosquitoes from biting for 24 hours;
protection gradually diminished over two weeks. Other insect repellent sprays
with the same amount of permethrin should perform similarly in killing
mosquitoes, the article states.