With public health officials warning that mosquitos carrying the Zika virus could infect Americans as early as next month, preventing mosquito bites at home should be at the top of every summer to-do list.
So how can you protect yourself and your family?
Although products derived from oils might smell better, they don t last nearly as long as synthetic chemical-based repellants like picaridin and DEET. If used as directed, products containing picaridin and DEET are safe for use by pregnant and even breast-feeding women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Except for oil of lemon eucalyptus, in our tests we didn’t find that any of the natural insect repellents worked very well,” Trisha Calvo of Consumer Reports told WKTV. “None of them kept mosquitoes away for longer than an hour.”
Here are the top three picks for warding off the zika-spreading Aedes mosquitos, according to Consumer Reports:
• Sawyer Picaridin
• Ben’s 30% Deet Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula
• Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
Each of the top picks contains a different key ingredient: picaridin, DEET and a derivative of eucalyptus. DEET, an active ingredient in many insect repellants, has been used since the 1940s. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DEET is safe for pregnant women and young children.
Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus, on the other hand, should not be used on children under three years old. Insect repellant of any kind should not be used on babies under 2 months of age; instead small babies should be protected by a mosquito net placed around their infant seat or carrier.
Here’s the best way to use mosquito repellants, per the CDC:
• Spray or rub repellant only onto skin not covered by clothes (it’s not necessary to apply repellant under your clothing)
• Use just enough insect repellant to cover your skin; heavy application does not increase effectiveness
• Never use insect repellants on cuts, wounds or irritated skin
• Do not spray insect repellant directly onto your face – spray it into your hands and then carefully apply to your face
• Apply insect repellant after applying sunscreen
• After returning indoors, wash insect repellant off of your skin with soap and water or take a bath
Another way to protect your home from mosquito populations is to get rid of standing water. Birdbaths, flowerpots and clogged gutters all make for excellent mosquito breeding grounds.