Even those of us in wintery climates can’t ignore headlines about the mosquito-born Zika virus. The World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency as experts scramble to understand more about the virus.
Zika’s certainly on my radar. My family and I are escaping the snow to go to the Bahamas next week, and in May, I’m traveling to Nicaragua for a wedding. I’m not planning another pregnancy, but many of my friends are worried about Zika. And apparently it’s not only a concern for women and their babies. Zika is also linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune condition that involves temporary paralysis and can be serious, even fatal.
What About Non-Toxic Bug Spray for Zika?
When it comes to fending off pesky mosquitoes, I normally shy away from chemical insect repellents and recommend this natural bug spray.
But Zika is a different story. To ward off mosquitoes carrying serious health risks, I would feel better with something stronger. Fortunately, experts are saying that you don’t have to resort to DEET, which is a neurotoxin.
Better Than DEET for Zika Protection
It turns out that Picaridin—a milder chemical–may actually perform better than DEET when it comes to Zika protection. Consumer Reports showed that Picaridin is more effective at repelling the Aedes mosquito, the type that carries the Zika virus.
Here’s more good news: unlike DEET, Picaridin did not cause cancer in animal studies, nor did it appear to lead to reproductive damage. It’s also less likely than DEET to irritate your skin.
Human studies on Picaridin are lacking, and Picaridin is by no means entirely non-toxic, but I would feel okay using it in a place where there are Zika-carrying mosquitoes, given the risks of this virus.
Check out Picaridin products like Sawyer’s Fisherman’s Formula, which you can get on Amazon. I would never apply this product directly to the skin, but plan to put it on our clothing when we are in mosquito-heavy areas.
P.S. I also read that the Aedes variety of mosquito likes the smell of feet, so you might consider shoes and socks for yourself or your kids if you’re in a Zika-affected region of the world.