Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes the promise of warmer days, gorgeous flowers, and more outdoor adventures. But it also brings pesky bugs such as mosquitos, ticks, and black flies – a problem you can’t avoid if you want to step outdoors. While some bug bites can simply cause redness, itching and irritation, others can actually put yours and your family’s health at serious risk. Spraying yourself with insect repellents before you go out will not only protect you and your family against those maddeningly itchy mosquito bites, but it will also prevent you from getting sick.
Insect repellents come in spray, gel, roll-on and aerosol forms. They rely on chemical or natural ingredients to prevent mosquitos from landing on your skin or biting you. The main ingredients that most insect repellents on the market contain are DEET, picaridin and natural formulations.
DEET is the main ingredient in many insect repellents and it has been proved to be one of the most effective in preventing mosquito bites in particular. DEET based insect repellents can contain DEET at different concentrations, usually between 10% to 80%. The World Health Organization recommends a repellent between 20% to 50% DEET for maximum effectiveness on adults. The more DEET content, the longer the repellent will protect you from insect bites. However, more DEET isn’t always better. It is recommended that products for children contain no more than 30% DEET as higher levels can cause skin irritation.
Picaridin is an odourless and colourless synthetic repellent that has been recognised by the World Health Organization as an effective repellent and a good alternative to DEET. It is typically used at concentrations between 10% to 30% and it is a good alternative for DEET sensitive individuals. Unlike DEET, picaridin does not damage plastics and other man-materials and some individuals prefer their odourless qualities. However, picaridin is not recommended for use on children under 2 years old.
Natural repellents contain a blend of herbs and essential oils that have insect-repelling properties. The use of this insect repellent is more suitable where there is no risk of exposure to mosquito-borne diseases. Also, natural insect repellents tend to require more regular application than their chemical counterpart. However, it is a good option for those looking for a pleasant smelling natural product to deter insects. Common ingredients found in these repellents include lavender, citronella, lemongrass, tea tree, rosemary, eucalyptus and peppermint.
Choosing the right insect repellent is important, and so is using it properly. Apply the repellent on clothing or exposed skin only (not under clothing as it can cause irritation). Use just enough to cover the exposed skin (using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective). It is also important not to apply the product on any open wounds or directly on your face. Protect your face by applying the product on your hands and then rubbing it on.