National Consumer News

Best mosquito repellents to protect against Zika virus


By Clark Howard Staff

The United States will see an increasing number of travel-related cases of the Zika virus, as the epidemic continues to spread.

Among them will likely be pregnant women, the population most vulnerable to the devastating affects of the virus.

Apart from condoms and abstinence, the CDC says the best way to protect against the disease is to avoid mosquito bites. And as temperatures and mosquito populations rise, municipalities will have to examine their mosquito abatement policies.

3 things to know to protect yourself against Zika

According to a report from Consumer Reports, “The CDC emphasizes that avoiding mosquito bites requires multiple strategies, such as wearing long-sleeved pants and shirts when outdoors. But it says that mosquito repellents are essential, too.”

“Using an insect repellent is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from Zika and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes,” Harry Savage, chief of ecology and entomology activity at the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, told CR.

And Consumer Reports’ tests found that “some repellents worked much better than others at protecting against the type of mosquitoes that transmit Zika.” 

1. What NOT to use

Consumer Reports recommends skipping products made with natural plant oils. Here’s why: None lasted for more than 1 hour against Aedes mosquitoes, and some failed almost immediately. In addition, those products are not registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates skin-applied repellents and evaluates them for safety and effectiveness. 

2. Use the right repellent

Repellents with 30% deet: CR’s tests show that repellents with concentrations of 30% deet provide the same protection against mosquitoes as higher percentages for up to 8 hours. But do not use these products on infants younger than two months.

Women who are pregnant or breast feeding can safely use deet, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535, according to the EPA, if they are applied properly.

Here are the products recommended by Consumer Reports:

See the full list of repellent products tested by Consumer Reports here.

3. Know how to apply repellent 

Here are tips from the EPA on how to use insect repellent effectively:

  • Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing—never put it on under clothing. Use just enough to cover and only for as long as needed; heavy doses don’t work better.
  • Don’t apply mosquito repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin or immediately after shaving.
  • When applying to your face, spray first on your hands, then rub in, avoiding your eyes and mouth, and using sparingly around ears.
  • Don’t let young children apply. Instead, put it on your own hands, then rub it on. Limit use on children’s hands, because they often put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
  • Don’t use near food, and wash hands after application and before eating or drinking.
  • At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.
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