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What Type of Insect Repellent Do Doctors Recommend?

Summer is all about the outdoors. For people who live in areas like New Jersey (or any state where winters are cold), it often feels like coming out of hibernation. You want to make the most of it with your outdoor activities, from biking to gardening.

With the heat of summer, though, comes the rise of insects. Flies, mosquitos, ticks, ants, wasps — the list goes on. Applying bug repellent is a normal protective measure for people of all ages, but as medical knowledge continues to advance (and as new health concerns come to light), it’s important to get the facts straight when it comes to bug repellent.

To put it simply, there are an overwhelming number of insect repellents are on the market today. How should you go about choosing the best one for your family?

The risks of insect bites

Insect bites aren’t just itchy and uncomfortable — some of them also have the capacity to pass on infections and diseases. For example, Aedes mosquitoes carry the Zika virus, while Culex mosquitoes spread diseases such as West Nile virus. Ticks carry Lyme disease. All of these insect born diseases are dangerous, and can even be life threatening in extreme cases. Urgent care is a good first stop for insect bites that worry you. Most of the time, you’ll get the treatment you need straightaway. In those rare extreme cases, you’ll be referred to a specialist or to the emergency department.

Three important ingredients

The best way to keep insects at bay is to use a high quality spray or lotion. Some people use more unconventional methods, such as a bracelet covered with repellent, but spray is generally the most effective.

With regard to repelling mosquitoes and ticks in particular, the CDC recommends DEET, which is a spray that was developed in the 1940s. Picaridin and lemon eucalyptus oil are also recommended, and can extremely effective. These three ingredients are proven to repel mosquitoes and be safe for human use, provided they’re used within acceptable limits and in the right way.

For example, the safety of DEET has been questioned a lot in recent years, but the Environmental Protection Agency has found it to be quite safe and non-cancer-causing when applied according to the label. It can even be used safely on infants over 2 months old. The most effective insect sprays contain 15 to 30 percent DEET — no more and no less.

Picaridin, developed in the 1980s to resemble black pepper, became available in the U.S. in 2005. Just like DEET, it has been found safe for use on people of all ages. Sprays containing 20 percent picaridin are the most effective.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus occurs naturally and is extracted from trees. Products containing 30 percent of this oil have shown to be more effective than any other kind of oil, including citronella and peppermint. Studies have shown that sprays containing all three of these ingredients (DEET, Picaridin and lemon eucalyptus oil) are able to repel insect for 7 to 8 hours after application.

What’s the bottom line?

When you’re looking for insect repellent, take the time to read the label and look for a product that contains at least one of these three important ingredients. As you look at the label, take note of the concentration or percentage of each ingredient. Some products may contain the right ingredients, but if the dosage is too low or too high, the effect will not be the same.

As you and your kids ramble through outdoor landscapes this summer, a good bug repellent can make all the difference. If unexpected incidents do occur, your local urgent care center can provide timely treatment and advice with little-to-no wait times.

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