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The most effective bug spray is…

You won’t find a bigger backer of natural therapies than me — but if I’m going to depend on something to protect my family, it darned well better work.

And it better work well.

Some of the hippies out there are so high on patchouli that they’ve lost the ability to sniff out common sense — and they think ANYTHING natural must be better than a chemical.

Well, my friend, it’s time to wake up and smell the DEET!

It might be a chemical, but this summer you’re going to need the stuff and the latest research shows why: IT WORKS!

When it comes to Zika-spreading, West Nile-carrying, dengue-dispensing mosquitos, no hippy oil can do the job nearly as well — so if you want to protect your family from these and other bug-borne diseases, you’re going to have to learn to love DEET.

In a series of experiments, researchers found that most of the crunchy stuff on the market right now either doesn’t work or works so briefly you’ll need to keep basting yourself in it to get any protection at all.

Plant oils such as citronella and rosemary keep skeeters away for an hour or less and some “natural” bug repellents barely last 30 minutes, according to the tests from Consumer Reports.

DEET, on the other hand, is the Energizer Bunny of bug repellents: it keeps going… and going… and going… and going, lasting for up to SEVEN hours!

It wasn’t the only winner, either — there are a couple of others, but they’re also chemicals. Both picaridin and a synthetic derivative of eucalyptus are about as effective as DEET (just avoid anything with oil of lemon eucalyptus in kids under 3, it can give them a nasty rash).

Earlier studies found that the chemical IR3535 will also do the trick, but it didn’t do so well in the latest round of testing.

Maybe the bugs are getting tougher to kill.

Whatever you do, don’t head out without some protection this summer, because the CDC is warning that this could be the most dangerous mosquito season yet, with Zika-armed bugs making their way toward the United States right now.

And they’re expected to arrive any day.

The biggest risks are to pregnant women, as the virus can cause birth defects. But even if you’re not pregnant, Zika can cause a nasty infection — and in some cases, it can lead to ADEM.

That’s a nightmare condition that mimics the sheer agony of multiple sclerosis… and you can get it from a little old mosquito bite!

So pick your poison. Some pregnant women avoid DEET because there’s not a whole lot of research on safety in the first trimester. I haven’t seen anything to convince me it’s unsafe, but if it makes you feel any better, reach for the picaridin instead.

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