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Will Your Bug Spray Keep Zika Away?

Photograph by Twenty20

The CDC said in a briefing on June 17 that Zika infections are increasing in Puerto Rico at a rate quicker than originally anticipated. And given that there are many coastal areas of the mainland U.S. that have perfect conditions for the Zika-carrying mosquito to breed, it may only be a matter of time before we see more cases popping up throughout the summer. Although the CDC recommends wearing long-sleeved pants and shirts outdoors to combat Zika-carrying mosquitos, which can bite during the day, they also have said mosquito repellents are one of the best ways to protect yourself.

But not all mosquito repellents are created equal, according to Consumer Reports, which published a ranking of best insect repellents.

The rating listed Sawyer Picaridin, Natrapel 8 Hour (both of which contain 20 percent picaridin) and Off! Deepwoods VIII (which contains 25 percent deet) as the most effective repellents against the Aedes agypti mosquito species.

If you’re using a product with deet, it should contain at least 7 percent, but no more than 30 percent.

Consumer Reports' previous tests of mosquito repellent have shown that it’s not necessary to buy any product with a deet concentration of more than 30 percent because it provides the same protection for up to eight hours, and higher concentrations have also been “linked to rashes, disorientation and seizures.”

Products with picaridin should not have less than 20 percent, and you can skip anything with 2-Undecananone, as products containing the chemical made the list of recommended products.

Among the least effective products, Consumer Reports said to skip ones made with natural plant oils because most "failed almost immediately” or did not last more than an hour against Aedes agypti mosquitoes. California Baby Natural Bug Blend and EcoSmart Organic are two of the brands Consumer Reports said failed miserably.

The CDC recommends EPA-registered bug repellents; to figure out if the one you’re considering is registered, the back of the label should have a registration number ("EPA Reg.”), according to Consumer Reports.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women can safely use effective mosquito repellents containing deet, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus and IRA3535 when they’re properly applied, according to the EPA. Products containing deet should not be used at all on infants younger than 2 months old.

Insect repellent should be applied to young children by adults; simply spray the repellent on your own hands and then rub it on the child, being sure to avoid hands, since children often rub their hands in their eyes and mouths.

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