Buzz off, bugs! How to stay safe during insect season

Story highlights

  • Four chemicals provide protection from biting bugs: Picaridin, IR3535, PMD, DEET
  • Despite negative reputation, DEET was found to be most effective and least toxic
  • Insect-borne illnesses are on the rise in the United States, experts say
  • Covering up with clothing and draining standing water will also help prevent bites

(CNN)Welcome to bug season, when mosquitoes, ticks and other creepy crawlers make even the bravest mom or dad hesitant to let the kids go outside. Not only are insects annoying, they can carry diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.

But what's the best way to ward off these pests? A new report, released Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group, finds that no one bug repellent works against every insect, but your best bets are those products made with active ingredients registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientific tests have shown that four registered chemicals provide a high level of protection from a number of bug bites, according to the EWG report: Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (and its synthetic derivative known as p-Menthane-3,8-diol, or PMD) and DEET.