What should you think about when buying insect repellent?
Mosquitoes can give you Malaria, West Nile virus, Yellow fever and Dengue fever, amongst others. They can all be fatal without prompt treatment. Ticks can also pass on a variety of nasty diseases, some fatal. and insect repellents come in various forms. The choice depends on your destination as well as how sensitive your skin is.
Different insect repellents
- Sprays are easy to use, can be smelly and often contain DEET, AKA Diethyltoluamide
- Mosquito nets keep insects out when you’re asleep, ideal for tropical regions and can be coated with repellent for extra power. Make sure it covers the whole bed
- Bite relief treatments relieves the itch but doesn’t prevent more bites
- Wrist and ankle guards usually include DEET or natural citronella, wearable all day and best used along with other methods
How to apply your repellent
- Use a low concentration gel on exposed bits like your ears and a higher concentration to your clothes
- Check how long the protection lasts and re-apply as necessary
- Don’t wear perfume or aftershave, it affects how well repellents work
- Use a stronger repellent in hot places
- If you’ll be in densely wooded areas, get a full-face mosquito mask
Sensible DIY options
Sleep with fresh circulating air, a fan is perfect. And remember that natural repellents aren’t usually strong enough to keep mosquitoes away.
If you’re going somewhere with a serious risk of insect-borne disease you can get clothing impregnated with Pyrethoid, which is also used on nets and is anti-bacterial. It is rarely irritating to human skin and kills mosquitoes when they land. The clothes are made of closely-woven fabric too, to stop insects getting in.
DEET is powerful and effective to both mosquitoes and other biting insects. But it isn’t suitable for everyone and can cause issues for young children, those with sensitive skin and when you use it for long periods at a time. The lower the concentration of DEET in your repellent, the less effective it is. It can also cause damage to some synthetic fabrics, but it’s fine with cotton and wool.
Children shouldn’t apply it themselves, and shouldn’t use a repellent with more than 20% DEET. Bear in mind it can be slightly toxic to birds and fish, but it’s more or less completely safe around mammals.
If you’re concerned about DEET or react badly to it, there are some natural alternatives which include a blend of plant extracts like Lemon Eucalyptus, Citronella and Myrtle. But they’re nowehere near as effective.
Protection against other Insects
Mosquito nets don’t keep midges and smaller insects away because the mesh is too large. A smaller mesh means you can’t breathe and things get very uncomfortable. A fan in your room is often enough to keep tiny insects away, as long as you keep the windows and door shut. Bright lights attract insects, so keep the lighting low indoors.
Any questions? Feel free to ask our experts
If you’re not sure where to start with insect repellents, you can always come along and have a chat with our travel health experts. We’ll give you the best and most current advice as well as providing any holiday and travel vaccinations you might need.
You can also check out our insects and bugs page.