St. Mark's Hospital - July 08, 2019

A Buyer’s Guide to Bug Spray

No one likes an itchy bug bite. Plus, the list of diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and other pesky bugs seems to grow longer every year. Luckily, you can fight back by wearing a good bug repellant. Here’s what to know about using repellents to keep your family bite-free.

Choose the right ingredients

Most bug repellents contain DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin. All three ingredients are safe for pregnant women, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely safe for children. The Food and Drug Administration cautions against using oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under three, and DEET shouldn’t be used on babies younger than eight months old.

Don’t assume higher concentrations of DEET improve effectiveness

Tests from Consumer Reports found that the best products actually contain just 15 percent to 30 percent DEET.

Be wary of “natural” products

Many “natural” bug repellents claim to keep mosquitos at bay—even those carrying the scary Zika virus! These products usually contain plant oils like cedar, citronella, lemongrass and rosemary. However, Consumer Reports’ researchers found lemon eucalyptus is the only natural oil that can support these claims.

Skip products with SPF

Two-in-one products may be convenient, but they can do more harm than good. That’s because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours for maximum protection, but applying bug repellent that frequently can cause overexposure.

Follow instructions

Only apply bug spray to exposed skin or clothing, never under your clothing or on irritated skin or cuts. When applying to your face or to young children, spray first on your hands and then rub in. Always wash your hands after application.