Consider this: if you have sprayed on mosquito repeller containing DEET and then put on a jacket, or not washed it off after returning indoors, you are among the many that the EPA estimates are misusing these products. Although studies show DEET to be highly effective, there are alternatives made of natural ingredients or other chemicals, such as picaridin or IR3535, which can also be highly effective for hours.
Narrowing down the options among the many types and brands of bug repellent begins with carefully reading product labels. Some active ingredients, especially in higher concentrations, should not be used on young children. Additionally, the EPA says it's important to consider the length of protection time, waterproofness and type of insects when choosing an insect repellent. While our insect repellents report delves into the pros and cons of all types of insect repellents, here's a checklist to help you determine your insect repellent needs:
You have children
For an infant under 2 months old, select natural insect repellent containing soybean oil, such as BiteBlocker Organic Xtreme Insect Spray (*Est. $9 for 6.7 oz.). Although insect repellents containing lemon eucalyptus are also derived from a plant, the manufacturer of the popular Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent (*Est. $8 for 4 oz.) warns against applying it on a child under 3 years of age. If you prefer the effectiveness of DEET for your child, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says to use a lower concentration and never more than 30 percent DEET. You can always reapply it to get a longer protection time.
Your time outdoors varies
Insect repellents vary in their effectiveness from a mere half hour to more than eight hours. You should match the insect repellent to the amount of time you need protection. If you plan to be outdoors for an extended period of time, note on the label how frequently the insect repellent can be reapplied (just in case it stops working sooner than expected). You don't want to reapply more than recommended by the manufacturer.
You'll use the repellent while playing sports or at the river
Some insect repellents are waterproof, while others claim to be sweatproof. Your level of activity and perspiration outdoors should be taken into consideration when choosing a bug repellent. If you want protection from biting insects while engaging in water activities, choose a waterproof repellent.
There are specific bugs you're dodging
If you are strictly concerned about mosquitoes, nearly any repellent will give you some measure of protection. But if you need to prevent bites from ticks, black flies, no-see-ums and other insects, make sure the repellent also offers that type of protection.
Finally, don't buy on the fly
Some people seem to attract biting insects more than others, and bug repellents don't work the same on everyone. Therefore, test the effectiveness of the insect repellent on you and your family while you have other options still available, such as heading indoors. You don't want to be at the mercy of biting insects in the backwoods with a product that just doesn't seem to be working.