Mosquito and tick-borne diseases are on the rise nationwide. The best way to protect yourself is with a good insect repellent. Many of the highest-rated products contain DEET at concentrations of 15% to 30%. Research has shown that DEET is safe when used as directed, even for kids and pregnant women.
As part of Consumer Reports expert testing against mosquitos, a standard dose of repellent is applied to each test subject's forearms. Each subject tests two repellents, one on each arm, at a time, then sticks each arm into a cage of 200 disease free mosquitoes of one species for five minutes. The repellent fails if there are two bites in one exposure period, or one bite in each of two consecutive sessions. CR did not test all repellents against ticks, but previous test results and further research indicate that any product that protects from mosquito bites will also likely protect from tick bites.
CR's two top rated repellents contain DEET. Total Home CVS Woodland Scent Insect Repellent and Off Deep Woods Insect Repellent Eight Dry. Also performing well in CR's testing were this 30% Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus repellent, and this 20% picaridin repellent. Research suggests both are safe, though OLE shouldn't be used on children under three years old. And to get the best protection from any of these repellents, you must apply them properly. So follow the directions on the label.
Now, you may worry about using a chemical like DEET on your children and want to go the natural route, perhaps with a repellent containing citronella or other essential oils. The US Environmental Protection Agency - and Consumer Reports - says that DEET with concentrations of 30 percent or less is safe for children, when used as directed. And CR's tests have shown that most natural products, with the exception of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, don't perform well against mosquitoes.
Top tested repellents for mosquitoes and ticks