If you’re thinking of going someplace warm this winter, you may be wondering about protecting yourself from the Zika virus. Beware: Many mosquito-repellent products actually provide little or no protection. These fraudulent products leave consumers just as vulnerable as ever to the Zika virus. Zika can cause fevers, rashes and joint pain…as well as serious birth defects when pregnant women are infected. Zika also has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to muscle weakness, temporary paralysis and even death.
Mosquitoes are spreading Zika in South America and Central America as well as in south Florida and Texas. Additional parts of the US could be affected in future years.
Products that have not been scientifically proven to provide significant protection against mosquitoes include ultrasonic mosquito repellers and mosquito-repelling wristbands. Many “natural” or “organic” bug sprays are ineffective as well. The makers of sprays featuring garlic or oil of clove are technically correct when they claim that these ingredients repel mosquitoes…what they don’t mention is that their products repel mosquitoes for only very short periods—some last just 20 minutes—and/or work only when used in extremely high concentrations.
What to do: Use a mosquito-control product that has an “EPA Registration Number” printed on its label. Mosquito repellents that have these numbers have been scientifically shown to be both effective and safe when used as directed.
An effective mosquito-repellent almost certainly will feature one of the following active ingredients…
DEET. Choose a product that has a 25% to 35% DEET concentration.
Picaridin. This odorless synthetic product is based on a compound found in black pepper plants. It is as effective as DEET and typically feels lighter and less greasy on the skin. Choose a product that has a 15% to 19% picaridin concentration.
Oil of lemon-eucalyptus. This is the only natural ingredient that has been proven effective against mosquitoes (ticks, too). Choose a product that has an oil of lemon-eucalyptus concentration of around 40%.