Mosquito bites and tick bites are the absolute worst. They’re part of every summer. If you enjoy camping or simply lounging on your deck after dark, you’ve probably tried a variety of bug sprays, candles, and insect repellants just to get relief from summer bugs and reduce your risk of catching West Nile Virus.
While there’s no fail-safe way to prevent bug bites, many people turn to various types of repellants. But unfortunately, many of the active ingredients found in these sprays and creams can be very unhealthy. For some, it’s better to deal with an itchy bug bite than put harsh chemicals on your skin.
So where is the truth? Is it better to let mosquitoes bite or should you and your family use bug spray? Let’s examine some common chemicals found in insect repellant and how they may or may not affect your health:
Picaridin Is Your Friend
One of the most common ingredients in bug repellants is called Picaridin. It doesn’t smell bad and it’s unlikely to irritate your skin and eyes when you use it.
Many other bug repellants have ingredients that do cause irritation, so it’s better to look for products with Picaridin in them.
If you use a 20% concentration of it, you’ll have solid protection from mosquitoes and ticks for just about the entire day.
DEET Is Everywhere
The award for Most Common Insect Repellant, of course, goes to DEET. It’s more effective than Picaridin, even though it’s gotten a bad rap for some adverse neurological effects.
This is unfortunate, because it’s only been found to produce a negative reaction in one out of 100 million people.
This means that DEET is much safer than its reputation often suggests. At about 20% or 30% concentration, DEET can protect you all day long from a pretty wide variety of obnoxious pests.
IR3535: Also Safer Than It Sounds
While it might sound like it’s sort of Star Wars droid, IR3535 is actually a nice and safe ingredient found in a lot of insect repellants. You’ve got to use it at a concentration of higher than 20%, however, or else it’s not going to be very effective at keeping away the bugs.
Eucalyptus Extract for the Win!
By far the most natural and effective ingredient on our list is Eucalyptus tree extract.
When it’s in bug repellants it’s called Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, and will give you about six hours’ worth of protection when you use it at a concentration of 30%.
Although it’s a safe and natural alternative, Eucalyptus tree extract can irritate your lungs so you should keep it away from kids under 3 and (like everything else on this list) talk to your doctor before use if you have severe allergies.
Watch Out, Stay Safe, Wear Clothes
But when it comes to avoiding insect repellants, stay away from anything with more than a 30% concentration of DEET as this may be unhealthy. And don’t use repellants on kids that are younger than 6months old; they just don’t handle it very well.
And of course, you can also keep bugs away with clothing and netting. Long pants, long sleeves, shoes, socks and netting are one of the best defenses.
You can also reduce the insect population on your property by eliminating standing water supplies or other damp spaces where mosquitoes like to breed.
Enjoying the outdoors is one of the best parts of summer, but don’t let insect bites ruin your fun! These tips should help you keep safe. Let us know in the comments if you’ve got any to add!