Protecting yourself from mosquitoes: DEET or essential oils

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) -- The weather is warming up and, before you know it, mosquitoes will be out to feast on you and your family.

Most bug sprays have DEET, which is a repellent that the Centers for Disease Control has recommended for years. But, if you're concerned about spraying that chemical on your kids, you might want to consider a repellent with lemon eucalyptus oil. The CDC recommends this as an effective mosquito repellent as well as DEET.

Some people even use essential oils to repel the bugs.

"So I'm always very cautious about things that contain all these chemicals," said Nancy Bogart.

Bogart founded a natural skin care company in Nixa, Jordan Essentials. She says, when she's trying to keep the bugs off her kids, she goes with her own blend of lemongrass citrus essential oil spray.

"Think about it: cancer is on the rise, and it's building up on our skin," said Bogart. "And, all summer long, you don't want to have welts all over your children, but you also don't want to spray them down with DEET."

The CDC doesn't recommend using an essential oil not formulated as a repellent because it has not undergone similar, validated testing for safety. Bogart says, however, she prefers essential oils because they're safe on skin and easier on the nose.

"I like a natural solution whenever you absolutely, positively can," said Bogart. "Especially when it works, and you'll just keep reapplying it, and it smells fantastic."

We also spoke with Brian Pickens, owner of Expert Pest Solutions in Springfield.

"We try to take precautions everywhere we go," said Pickens.

He says, when he needs a product to protect himself from bugs, he reaches for something with DEET.

"It's been researched for many years, and used for many years," said Pickens. "And, under normal circumstances, most people will never -- I've never had a reaction to it."

He says, as a father of three, he also uses it on his kids. He recommends applying it to your hands first, and then to children.

Pickens says applying any repellent is much better than skipping it and getting bit.

"Wearing long sleeve shirts, and wearing pants, is a great alternative," said Pickens. "Because, if you do that, they're not going to be able to bite you through those layers."

Keep in mind everyone is different. There’s not a single product that will work well for everyone.

The CDC reminds people who are using a lemon eucalyptus product that it only keeps the mosquitoes away. It’s not going to help with ticks, chiggers, or other biting bugs. To protect against bugs other than mosquitoes, you’ll probably want to choose something with DEET.

When it comes to applying repellents to children, remember that DEET products should not be used on children under 2 months of age (according to the CDC). Lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children younger than 3 years. The CDC also reminds parents that children shouldn't be allowed to handle insect repellents. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, around the eyes, and cut or irritated skin.