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The Best Bug Sprays for Outdoor Comfort, Tested

From family-favorites to the expert-recommended, these are the best bug sprays out there.

Warm weather brings us fun in the sun, but it also means encounters with pesky bugs that can cause serious harm. Mosquitoes and ticks carry bacteria, parasites, and viruses — including Zika, dengue, and Lyme disease — that they transfer to humans through biting. Protecting yourself with bug spray before heading outdoors is the best way to lessen your risk of contracting an illness from a bite.

We spoke with Dr. Sonya Kenkare, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at Rush University in Chicago, about what types and brands of bug sprays to use. Dr. Kenkare is preparing to go on a medical mission trip to Zambia, where numerous mosquito-borne illnesses are endemic to the area.

After testing 16 different bug sprays, we have favorites that are gentle enough for the whole family to use and don't damage clothing or gear. Our picks include both DEET-based products and those made from picaridin, which Kenkare and her patients prefer because it doesn't have a harsh smell like the traditional bug spray ingredient. If you're looking for something that also provides sun protection or want an essential oil-based product, there are also great options out there for you.

See the full list from Amanda Ogle and Taylor Fox here.


October 20, 2023

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Sawyer Insect Repellent is a versatile picaridin spray recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as safe and effective for most people. Our testers liked the evaporating smell and how the spray feels once it dries.

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Insects and arachnids that bite in self-defense instead of to feed -- such as yellow jackets, bees, wasps, hornets, certain ants or spiders -- cannot be repelled with insect repellents.
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The number of bug-borne diseases is increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number of places they're spreading to is also on the rise.

WXYZ Detroit 7
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