Summer Insects, Ticks & Insect Repellant

As our climate warms, and we enter the summer season, the pathogens we face taking a walk outside have changed as well.  Recently in the northeastern US an individual walking through a well-manicured lawn in the mid-day sun was bitten by a type of disease spreading tick called the worrying long-horned tick never before seen in that region. Ticks primarily attacked in shaded areas with long uncut grass and shrubs. This is a new distribution of tick locations and behavior.

Mosquito borne diseases such as Zika (no reported cases in Broward, Dade or Palm Beach Counties in 2019), Chickengunya fever and even Yellow Fever are common in the Caribbean and parts of Central and South America. For this reason, the release of Consumer Reports’ recommended insect repellants prior to us spending more time outside in the summer weather is always of interest.

Consumer Reports emphasized that its top-rated products all contained either DEET, Picardin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. DEET should have a concentration of 25-30% to be most effective and is considered safe at that strength.  Picardin is a synthetic relative of the black pepper plant and is suggested in the 20% range.  Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus should be in the 30% range.

Interestingly, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, a natural occurring product, is the only chemical not yet tested for safety in young children.  It consequently should not be used in children three years of age or younger. Sprays were felt to be more effective than creams or lotions.  In all cases they recommend spraying it on exposed skin and the outside of clothing – never on the skin under areas covered by clothing.  Don’t use the product near food and wash your hands after applying.

Their top two rated products were Total Home (CVS) Woodland Scent Insect Repellent, an aerosol spray containing 30% DEET and selling for $6.50 and Off Deep Woods Insect Repellent VIII Dry for $8.50 containing 25% DEET.   Rated right below these two was Repel and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus pump spray for $7 a bottle.

Consumer Reports has stopped testing products for Tick effectiveness because in the past they found that DEET and Picardin products which protected against mosquitoes also protected against tick bites. They emphasized wearing shoes and socks, long pants and sleeves and spraying insecticide externally on the clothing helped protect against tick bites.  They advised seeing a physician quickly if you contract a tick bite. They additionally discussed the fact that many of these recommended insect products stained the very clothing you applied it to as protection.  These warnings are listed in their product ratings.