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Posted: May 24, 2016

When it comes to insect repellent, natural isn't always better

GREENWOOD, LA - AUGUST 9: A man sprays on mosquito repellent during a stop near the Louisiana exas border on Interstate 20 August 9, 2002 at the Greenwood, Louisiana tourist center. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Gettyimages)
Mario Villafuerte
GREENWOOD, LA - AUGUST 9: A man sprays on mosquito repellent during a stop near the Louisiana exas border on Interstate 20 August 9, 2002 at the Greenwood, Louisiana tourist center. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Gettyimages)

By Katherine Biek

To prevent mosquito bites and lessen the risk of catching the Zika virus, more than half of Americans plan to purchase an insect repellent this year. 

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The World Health Organization says the best way to prevent Zika is to not get bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus, but Consumer Reports said just any insect repellent won't do the trick. 

The most important thing to know from this latest round of testing? Natural isn't always better. 

Consumer Reports looked at six natural repellents -- meaning the active ingredients are derived from plants instead of chemicals -- and found that five of them only protected the wearer against mosquitoes for an hour at the most. 

But one natural repellent, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, was found to give at least seven hours of protection against Aedes mosquitoes, which are known to carry Zika. 

Out of all 16 repellents Consumer Reports tested -- both chemical- and natural-based -- two synthetic products -- Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent and Sawyer's Premium Picaridin Insect Repellent -- ward off Aedes mosquitoes the longest with just one application. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said active ingredients like DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus "typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection."

Health officials do say that while oil of eucalyptus products shouldn't be used on children younger than age 3, all three of the most effective active ingredients can be used by pregnant women. 

Back in April, the CDC released a map showing that mosquitoes known to carry Zika could soon be found across the lower half of the U.S.


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