Insect repellent can be one of the essentials in many scenarios like an adventurous outing, having a home in insect prone areas, gardening, etc because encountering buzzy, creepy crawly insects is never a good experience. At the same time, it can be difficult to figure out how and which method of repelling insects you should opt for. Here we have brought you a guide that will help you through this confusion.
How The Repellent Works and What Are the Uses?
Humans attract insects by their breath and skin odors. Repellents are effective only at the skin area and contain ingredients that make you unattractive for insect biting but it does not kill insects. Repellents with higher concentrations (percentages) of active ingredient usually provide longer-lasting protection.
There are three types of repellents based on their application process. The working, effectiveness, and usage also vary according to the type of repellent you are using. This is very important for you to know what kind of repellent you need and why.
- Insect repellents to be applied to the skin: These kinds of repellents are the most efficient. Just be careful and follow all the instructions that came with the product and you can have the optimal protection from insects using this product.
- Insect repellents to be applied to clothing: Such repellents provide protection from a huge range of bugs. But these insect-repellents offer limited protection for exposed skin which can be a little disadvantage.
- Airborne insect repellents: Just spray them and they start working. No specific process of application is required to be followed and it will keep insects away from you. Its effectiveness might get compromised when conditions are windy or you’re on the move.
One more thing to keep in mind is the fact that different repellents work on different bugs. Any repellent can work well on only mosquitoes, for the rest of the pests; the effectiveness of the product may change as per the way it is designed.
Black flies, midges, sand flies, etc. are the pests that do not cause a serious risk of disease but being pests they surely aren’t good for your skin and might cause some irritation, redness, or allergies. Therefore it is essential you take care of your skin against them too. As repellents offer varying levels of protection against varying pests, you need to know what kind of bugs you are going to face and choose a repellent according to so that you will be well-prepped to fight them.
How Do I choose Insect Repellent?
Insect repellents come in various forms like sprays, lotions, sticks, wipes, etc. But there are some important things which you must consider while buying one. Read the tips below to know it.
- The products including strong ingredients to repel the insects should never be used on infants under 2 months of age.
- Go for a product that offers at least 60 minutes of complete protection with one application.
- To deter the insects, most of the repellents contain chemicals that can be irritating to the skin. To keep irritation to a minimum, use a product with a lower concentration of DEET or Picaridin.
- You can also use repellents made of natural or plant-based ingredients to avoid any bad effects that can be caused by chemical containing products.
- To all the specifications given on the container of the repellent to know what kind of insects it can protect you from and if it is suitable for you or not.
- Try not to go for the products that combine insect repellent and sunscreen, as it may not be very effective.
- Make sure you reapply the repellent if you are staying out for longer hours as none of the repellents will stay effective for the whole day.
- DEET vs. Picaridin
DEET has been in the market for the longest of the time and this tried and tested product has been performing really well. It is also endorsed by the World Health Organization as the most effective mosquito repellent. Picaridin is newer than DEET but it is a strong competitor as it has a few advantages over DEET.
The protection time of a repellent is determined by the percentage of DEET or Picaridin in it. Higher the concentration, longer is the protection. DEET is available in concentrations from 4 percent to 100 percent while Picaridin levels range from 7 to 20 percent.
According to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine, DEET provides complete protection against insects ranging from 1 to 2 hours for concentrations between 5 and 10 percent, 4 to 5 hours at around 20 percent, and only marginally longer at up to 50 percent, with no improvement at higher levels. On the other hand, Picaridin’s concentration of 7 percent is equivalent to about 10 percent of DEET and a 20 percent concentration offers the same protection i.e. up to 4-5 hours as an equivalent DEET concentration.
Slowly and steadily, Picaridin is being used in a larger form. It’s not possible to predict all the good and bad effects of chemicals used in the repellent right away as there might be some long-term effects too which may not be visible in present. However, after great research and studies, it is proven that Picaridin is mostly safe. There is a possibility that the effects can be different for children and infants.
Even though there are very slight chances of effects varying from adults to children, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests not using any type of insect repellent on babies less than 2 months old. This includes DEET along with picaridin. The United States Environmental Protection Agency also considers both DEET and picaridin to be safe for use during pregnancy.
Along with on humans, picaridin also does not seem to have any negative effects on the environment. If used in a large dosage, it may appear to be bad for some aquatic animals. On the other hand, it is considered to be non-toxic to birds and other land animals. As the bacteria in the soil break down picaridin it doesn’t cause any soil pollution too.
Also, it does not last long enough in the soil that it will leach into groundwater. Studies show that there is a little presence of picaridin in wastewater but it is not in a significant amount as picaridin in water is treated by a wastewater plant before reintroducing to the environment.
How to Apply Repellents (Precautions)
There are a few things which you must keep in mind while applying insect repellents. Check the precautions to be taken below
- Use only enough repellent to cover your skin but not too much so that it won’t saturate on your skin.
- For applying the spray first spray it into your hands and then rub it properly around your face, eyes, and mouth.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands after application.
- While applying insect repellents to kids, avoid applying spray directly to their hands, around their eyes, or to any
- skin areas with a cut or irritation.
- Keep food items away from the repellents.
- Never apply skin repellents to open wounds or sensitive skin areas.
- Before applying insect repellent it is must use sunscreen first.
- After use, wash the treated skin area with soap and water.
Is Insect Repellent Bad for Humans?
No doubt the skin repellents have so many benefits but there might occur a few bad effects too.
- Some might experience mild to strong skin reactions or allergic rashes.
- If the spray gets into your eyes, it can cause some irritation or redness.
- If the directions of applying the repellent are not followed properly that too might create some discomfort.
- If the spray gets into contact with injured skin or wounds by mistake, that too can have some serious problems.
Finally, choosing a way to protect yourself from insects is your decision as you know your circumstances the best. Just follow the instructions that come with the insect repellent and be careful while selecting the product for you. Apply it properly whenever required and you are all set to fight against the insects.
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