PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Zika virus and other viruses are carried by certain mosquitoes. With lots of outdoor activities just around the corner, how do you protect yourself?
“DEET is definitely the most effective,” says dermatologist Dr. Brian Horvath.
Using a product containing 10 to 30 percent DEET will do the trick.
“The 10 percent will last around two hours. 30 percent will last about five hours,” he says. “Anything beyond 30 or 40 percent at the most doesn’t really have any increased effectiveness.”
DEET, the active ingredient in many insect repellents, has been around since the 1940s.
It is safe in pregnancy, and babies as young as two months old can use it. Just don’t eat it, and with young children, don’t put it on their hands.
“DEET is a neurotoxin, so if children were to ingest it, it could potentially affect their nervous system,” says Dr. Horvath.
For some, the smell and stickiness of DEET is a problem. There is an alternative, FDA approved in 2005, called picaridin.
“There are some studies that suggest it’s as effective, if not slightly more effective then DEET in certain situations,” says Dr. Horvath. “It’s a synthetic version of a pepper plant derivative. So some people think of it as being more a natural insect repellent, though it is still made in factories.”
What should you avoid? Essential oils like peppermint and rosemary, which have to be applied every 20 minutes to be effective.
One standard product isn’t such a glowing option.
“Citronella definitely is not very effective at preventing insect bites. Lemon oil of eucalyptus may be slightly better than some other essential oils. But still nowhere as effective as DEET or picaridin.”
These products are thought to work by creating a vapor barrier. So it’s important to apply sunscreen before bug spray, so as not to disrupt that barrier.