Each year, the list of insect-borne diseases seems to get longer and longer. Lyme, Zika and West Nile are just a few of the more prevalent afflictions that are carried by mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects that can put a damper on outdoor endeavors.
Whether you are enjoying an evening in your own backyard or vacationing in some tropical locale, here is our breakdown of the most effective insect repellents, both chemical and mechanical.
N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, or more commonly referred to as DEET, is perhaps the best known and statistically the most effective repellent on the market. Some brands have higher concentrations than 30%, but studies show that there can be side effects and should never be used on infants under two months of age. Also be wary of products containing less than 10% DEET as they can be less effective in providing long lasting protection. The ideal range for protection without the possibility of issues is between 15-30% DEET.
While slightly less effective than DEET, picaridin is another chemical based repellent that proves very effective in repelling biting insects. When looking for the most effective solution, choose a brand that contains 20% of the active ingredient and the spray version is preferable to the lotion for the best protection.
While technically plant-based, para-Menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) is a chemically synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus. Choose a product with at least 30% of the active ingredient. The FDA also recommends not applying to children younger than three.
NOTE: Repellents are not effective against stinging insects like bees, wasps and hornets.
While backpacking, camping or just enjoying an evening in your backyard, we have found that devices like those from Thermacell do work to create an insect free zone. This is achieved utilizing a butane cartridge which provides cordless, portable heat that is directed to a metal grill that disperses the repellent, a synthetic version of a natural repellent found in chrysanthemum plants, from a small saturated mat creating the insect free zone.
Other protective options
Permethrin: Spray on treatment for apparel
Developed for use by the agricultural industry and first used as a repellent on clothing by the military, is a synthetically derived compound. It does not damage or stain fabrics. While spray on applications can last 5 or more washings, pretreated fabrics may last for longer than 60 washings.
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