Mosquito bites can be quite annoying for days or weeks. Lyme disease and West Nile virus, on the other hand, are real ailments that can be prevented with proper use of insect repellent. Our love for the outdoors can still be enjoyed with a little preparation and knowledge on how to keep ourselves safe from biting insects. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ repellent for every part of the country or situation, so read on to learn more about which Best Insect repellent will be best for you and your family.
DEET, or N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, is hands down the most effective active ingredient in bug repellent at warding of biting insects. It’s effectiveness and length of effectiveness depends on the concentration. Concentrations of 5-10% will provide protection for one to two hours. It will need to be reapplied for longer treks in the woods. 20% concentrations will work for four to five hours. Protection time rises marginally up to concentrations of 50%. Levels higher than 50% are not proven to improve protection. Outdoor miracle right? Not so fast. Although the EPA found that proper use of DEET poses no risk to your health, some believe that has potential health risks. When using an insect repellent with DEET, base concentration level on how long you plan to be outdoors. Rather than lathering or spraying your body with replant as you would with sunblock, it is recommended to first put the repellent in your hand and lightly rub on your body and hair. Hands should be washed immediately. Most health experts recommend using a DEET-free alternative for young children since their skin is much more permeable than that of adults.
The best alternative to DEET is a chemical known as picaridin, which is much more common overseas than in America. Picaridin works better against flies, does not smell bad, and will not cause the irritation that some may experience with DEET. In addition, the World Health Organization says this compound may even be superior to DEET. Other alternatives are derived directly from nature like as eucalyptus oil, citronella and soybean oil. However, these products vary in their effectiveness and will not last very long compared to DEET and Picaridin. They can be suitable for shorter durations and can be reapplied several times for longer hours outside in the deep woods.
Where Will You Be Using Insect Repellent?
Keep in mind that the type of outdoor activity for which you’ll need insect protection will also determine which type to purchase. The main reason for this is because DEET is a solvent, meaning it may dissolve some plastics, spandex, synthetic fabrics and leather. Depending on what you need it for and where it will be applied, you may want to try picaridin to protect your gear rather than spraying your gear with DEET. Some DEET and picaridin repellents can protect against both mosquitos and ticks, but not all. Cutter Maximum Strength Insect Repellent, for example, will protect against both, while the popular OFF! Active Insect Repellent will not protect against ticks. If you’re heading to a heavily wooded area, like the Upper Midwest or Northeast, you’ll want protection for both mosquitos and ticks.
How Long Will You Need Protection?
If protection is only needed for an hour or two, then a natural insect repellent will do the trick. You can also go with a low concentration of DEET, around 5-10%. When protection is needed for five hours or more, you will be better off with a concentration of DEET or picaridin above 20%. DEET can be found in concentrations as high as 98% or higher which is great for 10+ hours of protection. Keep in mind that a higher concentration of DEET or picardin does not provide better protection, but instead increase the duration of the protection.
First, decide whether DEET is essential for your needs or if you prefer a DEET-free alternative. This might depend on where you will be and for how long. Lyme disease and West Nile virus are very serious conditions that are potentially more dangerous than possible side effects of DEET. Figure out how long you need protection, and what you need it for. It’s likely that you’ll need more than one type of repellent for different situations. Now, get outside and enjoy Mother Nature’s beauty!