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6 Insect Repellents Get High Marks

Consumer Reports Health Tests the Ability of Bug Repellents to Keep Insects at Bay
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 25, 2010 -- Consumer Reports Health has issued a new ranking of the six repellents it says are best to ward off mosquitoes and deer ticks.

The magazine says it tested 10 insect repellents in an outside laboratory, where volunteers let deer ticks crawl on them and also exposed themselves to mosquitoes.

Six of these repellents earned a "recommended" rating from Consumer Reports. These six repellents, along with their active ingredients and cost, are:

  • Off Deep Woods Sportsmen II; 30% DEET; cost: $1.25 an ounce.
  • Cutter Backwoods Unscented; 23% DEET; cost: $1.33 per ounce.
  • Off FamilyCare Smooth & Dry; 15% DEET; cost:  $1.63 an ounce.
  • 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellant 8; 25% DEET; $1.67 per ounce.
  • Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus; active ingredient oil of lemon eucalyptus; cost: $1.94 an ounce.
  • Natrapel 8-Hour with picaridin; 20% picaridin; cost: $2.00 an ounce.

Others tested included:

  • Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard plus IR3535 Expedition SPF 30, active ingredient IR3535; cost: $3.50 per ounce.
  • Bite Blocker Xtreme (organic); Plant oils are listed as the active ingredient; cost: $1.34 per ounce.
  • Cutter Skinsations Clean Fresh Scent; 7% DEET; cost: $1.04 per ounce.
  • Burt's Bees All Natural Herbal; active ingredient plant oils; cost: $2.00 per ounce.

Consumer Reports Health says that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has judged DEET to be safe when used as directed, but that it has caused rare toxic reactions when not used as instructed. The EPA also says DEET shouldn't be applied to babies less than 2 months old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has advised against using repellents with DEET concentrations higher than 30% on any kids. And Consumer Reports Health says no one should use a repellent with more than 30% DEET.

The top six repellents protected against deer ticks and mosquitoes for seven hours or more, Consumer Reports says in a news release.

Tips to Prevent Insect Bites

Though the bugs used in the evaluation were disease-free, mosquitoes in the U.S. can sometimes carry West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis, the magazine says.

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