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Bug Off!

Shayna Friedman

If you’re tired of endless scratching, but confused about the best insect repellent for you and your family — here’s what you need to know.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I have two 12-year-old nieces, twins actually, who strongly believe in being prepared. They’re quick to remind their older sisters to pack Dramamine for long bus rides. And since they have fair skin, they wouldn’t think of leaving the house without sun hats. “Summer’s around the corner. What do you do about mosquitoes?” I asked them in a recent conversation. “We don’t eat sugar in the summer,” the first begins. “That way we don’t have sweet blood!” the second one interjects, finishing her sister’s sentence. “And we won’t leave the house without Off!” “Which Off! do you buy?” I ask. “With so many different types, how do you choose?” “Well, we pick the bottle with the nicest package,” the older one says. The younger sagely agrees. We may laugh, but how many mature, responsible adults pick their bug protection the same way? With all the confusing information in the news, online, and even on package labels, it’s hard to make an informed choice. Fear of illnesses like Lyme disease and West Nile virus contends with worries over the purported negative side effects of insect repellents. Much of a consumer’s knowledge comes from information on a package; if 5 percent DEET is good, 100 percent must be better, right? Maybe “all-natural” repellents with claims like “repels mosquitoes for hours” and “proven effective,” are the safer choice — but are they too good to be true? 

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