What's the best bug spray? Consumer Reports has new ratings

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Mosquito and tick-borne diseases are on the rise nationwide. The best way to protect yourself is with a good insect repellent. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney reports on Consumer Reports' exclusive new ratings including the best repellents to use for a bug-bite free summer.

Annoying. Irritating. And potentially dangerous.

Mosquito and tick bites can ruin any summer outing. And the diseases they carry, like West Nile virus, Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be much worse.

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The good news is that the same kinds of repellents protect well against both mosquitoes and ticks. "Many of the better performing products contain DEET at levels of 15 to 30 percent. Research has shown that DEET is safe when used as directed, even for kids and pregnant women," said Joan Muratore from Consumer Reports Product Testing.

As part of Consumer Reports expert testing against mosquitoes, a standard dose of repellent is applied to each test subject's forearms, then each arm is placed 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.

Consumer Reports 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.

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Consumer Reports 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 Consumer Reports' testing was a 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus repellent, and the 20 percent picaridin repellent. Research suggests both are safe, though oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 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 United States Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Reports say that DEET with concentrations of 30 percent or less is safe for children when used as directed. And Consumer Reports tests have shown that most natural products, with the exception of oil of lemon eucalyptus, do not perform well against mosquitoes.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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