The Zika outbreak continues to dominate the news. With no vaccine for the virus and no drug to treat Zika infections, it has become clear that avoiding mosquito bites is essential.
Consumer Reports tested 16 insect repellents for their effectiveness at repelling bites from the Aedes mosquitoes that can carry the Zika and Chikungunya viruses and the Culex mosquitoes, known to spread West Nile virus. The lab also tested the repellents against deer ticks, which can carry Lyme and other diseases.
Some of the repellents are labeled “natural,” and contain plant-based oils. But Consumer Reports found they were not very effective. Five out of the six that were tested lasted only an hour and a half or even less against the Aedes mosquito, the one that carries the Zika virus.
In response to Consumer Reports’ concerns about natural insect repellents, a trade group, the Natural Products Association, says that some plant oils do work, and some people want alternatives to deet.
The only “natural” repellent that did a good job was Repel 30% Lemon Eucalyptus. It was able to ward off Aedes mosquitoes for 7 hours. (It should not be used on children under 3 years old.)
Other repellents that did well in Consumer Reports tests were Sawyer 20% Picaridin and Ben’s 30% Deet Tick and Insect Wilderness Formula.
When used properly, they are safe for children and all are safe for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
You can find more advice on buying insect repellents here.