Bzzz. Slap. Bzzz. Slap. Slap.

Ugh — the misery of summer running with mosquitoes.

So what works best against these relentless bloodsuckers? The results of one test may surprise you.

Consumer Reports recently found that repellents with non-traditional ingredients were more effective than products with high concentrations of DEET, which can cause skin irritation and rashes.

In a laboratory test of 15 products, Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent were the top performers.

The Sawyer’s product contains 20 percent picaridin, a synthetic chemical similar to the natural compound that is used to make black pepper. The Repel has 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus.

“It marked the first time since we’ve been testing these products that the ones made with safer chemicals were the most effective,” Consumer Reports’ spokeswoman Sue Byrne told RunHaven. “The takeaway is that you don’t need to douse yourself with high concentrations of DEET to keep mosquitoes and ticks away for at least eight hours.”

In the consumer group’s test, Repel’s 15 percent DEET spray scored better than Off! Deepwoods VIII, a spray with 25 percent DEET.

Time to chuck these?

Wristbands with natural plant oils were a big bust, testers said, noting that the mosquitoes started biting immediately when they wore the Coleman Naturals Insect Repellent Snap Band with citronella oil or the Super Band Wristband with geraniol oil.

Products that relied on rosemary, citronella and lemongrass, such as All Terrain Kids Herbal Armor and EcoSmart Organic Insect Repellent, also performed poorly.

So did Off! FamilyCare II Clean Feel, which contains only 5 percent picaridin.

“The concentration of picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus is important,” Byrne said. Higher concentrations were shown to work best.

The full review of products is in this month’s print issue of Consumer Reports and available online.

Don’t dismiss DEET

Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic, said he still considers DEET the best line of defense, especially for runners who travel overseas, where they are vulnerable to mosquito-born diseases such as malaria.

“If you are running a race in Tanzania, it’s a different story than if you are in Columbus, Ohio,” he said, adding that the runner in Tanzania should be wearing a product with 25 percent DEET.

Tick danger

Runners who enjoy a trot through the woods need to look out for ticks, said Dr. Ronald Nahass, a triathlete and president of ID Care, an infectious disease specialist group in New Jersey. A tick that latches onto a human can cause Lyme disease and a host of other illnesses.

“Insect repellent is one part of a three-prong approach, which includes proper use of clothing and vigorous tick checks,” he said. Runners should reapply insect repellent every hour or so while they are outside because sweat dilutes it, he added.

The physicians also suggest wearing clothes treated with permethrin, a tick-killing agent.

(Featured image via Flickr: U.S. Department of Agriculture, license)


By Nichols