Mosquito repellents:How to choose them

Friday, 30/09/2016

The ever waging battle against winged insects, in this case mosquitoes has spawned a large variety of repellents ranging from synthetic to natural to even futuristic and innovative technology such as mosquito repelling wristbands. While this has been controlled and to an extent, prevented the outbreak of certain diseases, we must ask ourselves, exactly how safe are these chemicals?

1.Natural vs Synthetic

▪ Right now, two kinds – natural and synthetic, of mosquito repellents are widely available in the market.

▪ With each season, the key players in the market come up with varied solutions against the disease spreading winged vermin. Consumers are offered a choice:- either take the risk of getting infected or expose themselves to the toxic repellents. Most choose the latter and with the passing of time, mosquitoes are developing an inborn resistance to the toxic cocktails that we offer them.

▪ Synthetic repellents mainly have DEET as the active ingredient. DEET (diethyl toluamide) and picardin is the main active ingredient in most repellents today.

▪ Natural repellents include bark of birch made into tar and mixed with salmon oil,lemon eucalyptus oil, lavender, cinnamon oil etc.

▪ While synthetic repellents are more effective at warding off mosquitoes, natural repellents cause less harm and side effects to the user, thereby making it the optimum choice in the long run.


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2.How to choose a good repellents

▪ First and foremost, only repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) should be considered for purchase. All EPA unregistered repellents are said to be “minimum risk” repellents and the use of these are not recommended.

▪ DEET in certain cases, have been known to cause seizures and headaches upon continued exposure, hence it is better to refrain using artificial repellents on children

▪ Various websites on the internet, including the EPA website offer extensive information about the various kinds of repellents available and their toxicity levels.

▪ While sprays are more convenient to use, lotions have to be preferred as they are milder on the skin. This is particularly true for kids.


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3.Permethrin based repellents

▪ Permethrin is another effective alternative to DEET and picardin based repellents. It is also extensively used as a pesticide in agriculture, for getting rid of lice in humans and animals, and also prevention of bites form mosquitoes and other winged vermin.

▪ What actually makes this product a much more attractive option is that unlike other repellents, it is applied on clothes and related materials rather than skin. This prevents the risk of side effects to a great extent.

▪ However, permethrin is toxic to plants, fish and small insects such as bees, so extra care has to be taken to prevent permithrin intermixing with water bodies and forest areas.

4.Last thoughts and conclusion
▪ It is largely assumed that DEET and picardin are safe to use, Yet the proof of their safety is still under research.

▪ Since permethrin based repellents are a much more attractive option than other synthetic substances due to non-contact with skin, it is preferred that this be used as far as possible. Another added advantage of permethrin is that it washes away without any trace and does not cause any stains on clothes, making it the optimum choice.

▪ Natural repellents usually only have very short times of effective protection, which is the main reason why people started choosing artificial substances over them. However, It is to be kept in mind that in the long run, natural substances cause less side effects and they are to be preferred for use by kids.

▪ Lotions and creams have to be preferred over sprays since they cause less harm to the skin and also to the environment, since most sprays contain aerosols.

▪ Any repellent, whether natural or synthetic, have to be checked for registration with the EPA before purchase. This is the primary standard for quality when it comes to mosquito repellents.

▪ Last but not least,prevention is better than cure, hence in the case of urban areas, it is better to restrict the growth and breeding of mosquitoes by curbing the amount of water that gets logged on roads and ditches.It is the duty of every citizen to do so.


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