How To Choose A Repellent and How To Use It For The Best Protection

woman spraying insect repellent

Mosquitoes are an inevitable part of the summer. And this year, with COVID a consideration, we might be spending more time outdoors than usual.

Supermarkets and pharmacies are stocked with a wide range of insect repellents including aerosols, creams, gels, sprays, roll-ons and wipes. There are even wristbands, fabric sprays, coils, sticks, plug-in devices and smartphone apps.

But not all products that purport to protect us from mosquito bites are equal.

So, how do you choose and use a repellent to best protect you and your family from mosquito bites?

The key ingredients

Health authorities around Australia recommend using insect repellents that you apply directly to exposed skin to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases.

All insect repellents sold in Australia must be registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), which checks that products are safe and effective.

Despite the wide range of formulations available, there are only a small number of active ingredients registered for use. So any insect repellent on the shelves in Australia will contain at least one of these ingredients.

outdoor party Spending more time outdoors means a greater chance of mosquito bites. David Todd McCarty/Unsplash

Oil of lemon eucalyptus is increasingly common in mosquito repellents. The chemical, p-menthane-3,8-diol, is derived from the leaves of the lemon-scented gum Corymbia citriodora.

This ingredient is a byproduct of the distillation process, not an essential oil extracted from the leaves of the plant. This is important, as this product is a much more effective repellent than essential oils (we’ll get to these alternatives shortly).

Formulations containing oil of lemon eucalyptus provide comparable protection to DEET-based repellents.

The active ingredient in the repellent will be listed on the packaging, along with the concentration.

Any insect repellent that contains these products should provide protection against biting mosquitoes. But the stronger the formulation, the longer the protection will last.

If you’re only outside for a couple of hours, say, in the backyard, there’s really no need for a high-concentration formulation. But if you’re going for a long bushwalk or fishing trip, pick a high-concentration product (regardless of the active ingredient).

Diethyltoumide (DEET) is one of the most widely used and recommended repellents across the world. It effectively prevents mosquito bites and has repeatedly been shown to have minimal adverse side effects if used as directed.

DEET formulations in Australia are available in a range of concentrations, as low as 10% through to “heavy duty” or “tropical strength” products that may be as high as 80%.

Picaridin is a common ingredient in local mosquito repellent formulations and effectively reduces mosquito bites. Like DEET, it has been assessed as safe to use. Most formulations in Australia have concentrations of less than 20%.

How you use it matters too

A dab here and there, or spraying repellent into the air around you, as you might a perfume, won’t provide much protection.

These products need to be applied thinly and evenly to all exposed areas of skin. Think of repellents as camouflaging us from mosquitoes on the lookout for blood.

While an aerosol or pump spray may allow for application direct from the container, you’ll need to rub creams, roll-ons and gels into your skin.

That doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other. But when choosing a formulation, think about which one you feel you’ll be able to apply thoroughly most easily.

What about ‘natural’ alternatives?

Some “natural” formulations that contain tea tree oil and other plant-based active ingredients have APVMA registration. Products sold at local markets or online may not be registered.

Notably, products that contain plant-based repellents generally don’t provide long-lasting protection from mosquito bites.

If you prefer to use products containing tea-tree oil or other botanical repellents, you need to be prepared to reapply much more frequently than with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus formulations.

And if you make up your own insect repellents from essential oils, without the checks in place associated with APVMA-registered repellents, there may be a greater risk of adverse skin reactions.

Can anything else help?

There’s no evidence mosquito-repellent wristbands or smartphone apps will protect you from mosquito bites.

A range of candles, coils, sticks, plug-in and fan devices and insecticide-treated clothing offer varying assistance in reducing mosquito bites. But unfortunately, none of these provides complete protection and are always best combined with topical mosquito repellents.

Some people perceive so-called “chemical” repellents as posing a risk to our health. But, in most instances, they can be safely applied to anyone over 12 months of age. (For babies, it’s best to provide physical protection, such as covering the stroller with a mosquito net.)

It’s also often said these traditional repellents are unpleasant to use. But even though the active ingredients haven’t changed much, the cosmetic constituents of insect repellents have greatly improved in recent years.

To get you through summer, choose a repellent formulation registered with APVMA. Pick whichever one you find easiest to spread over the skin to provide complete cover. And always check the instructions on the label.The Conversation

About The Author

Cameron Webb, Clinical Associate Professor and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Recommended Books: Health

Fresh Fruit CleanseFresh Fruit Cleanse: Detox, Lose Weight and Restore Your Health with Nature's Most Delicious Foods [Paperback] by Leanne Hall.
Lose weight and feel vibrantly healthy while clearing your body of toxins. Fresh Fruit Cleanse offers everything you need for an easy and powerful detox, including day-by-day programs, mouth-watering recipes, and advice for transitioning off the cleanse.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Thrive FoodsThrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health [Paperback] by Brendan Brazier.
Building upon the stress-reducing, health-boosting nutritional philosophy introduced in his acclaimed vegan nutrition guide Thrive, professional Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier now turns his attention to your dinner plate (breakfast bowl and lunch tray too).
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Death by Medicine by Gary NullDeath by Medicine by Gary Null, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Carolyn Dean
The medical environment has become a labyrinth of interlocking corporate, hospital, and governmental boards of directors, infiltrated by the drug companies. The most toxic substances are often approved first, while milder and more natural alternatives are ignored for financial reasons. It's death by medicine.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

More Articles By This Author

You May Also Like


internet company logos
Why Google, Facebook and The Internet are Failing Humanity and Little Critters
by Robert Jennings,
What is increasingly obvious is the dark side that is engulfing the internet and is spreading…
Full moon in the night sky
Horoscope Current Week: October 18 - 24, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
girl wearing a Covid mask outside carrying a backpack
Are You Ready to Take Off Your Mask?
by Alan Cohen
Sadly, the Covid pandemic has been a rough ride for lots of people. At some point, the ride will be…
girl wearing a hat deep in thought
Putting A New Spin On Our Thoughts and Experiences
by Jude Bijou
What goes on in the world, just is the way it is. How we interpret other people, things, and…
illustration of a film strip with various scenic pictures on each frame
Designing a New Future for Yourself
by Carl Greer PhD, PsyD
In the physical world, things have a past and a future, a beginning, and an end. For example, I’m…
teacher standing in front of students in an open classroom
Becoming Passionate About Public Education Again
by Robert Jennings,
We are almost all lucky to have someone in our lives to encourage and motivate us and try to show…
people walking and bicycling through a park
Finding Your Way and Flowing with The Mystery of Life
by Marie T. Russell,
Life. It's something we all have in common, no matter our religion, our race, our gender, our…
Flower growing through a chain-link fence
So Many Questions... So Many Answers?
by Marie T. Russell,
We go through life with so many questions. Some are simple. What day is it? What will I have for…
a swimmer in large expanse of water
Joy and Resilience: A Conscious Antidote to Stress
by Nancy Windheart
We know that we're in a great time of transition, of birthing a new way of being, living, and…
The Sixth Huna Principle: Mana -- All Power Comes From Within
The Sixth Huna Principle: Mana -- All Power Comes From Within
by Jonathan Hammond
The sixth Huna principle, Mana, states that there is nothing outside us that is more powerful than…
A Made-Up Controversy -  "Us" Against "Them"
A Made-Up Controversy - "Us" Against "Them"
by Robert Jennings,
When people stop fighting and start listening, a funny thing happens. They realize they have much…


How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
by Jackie Cassell, Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, Honorary Consultant in Public Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
The precarious economies of many traditional seaside towns have declined still further since the…
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
by Sonja Grace
As you experience being an earth angel, you will discover that the path of service is riddled with…
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
by Barbara Berger
One of the biggest things I've discovered working with clients everyday is how extremely difficult…
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
by Lucy Delap, University of Cambridge
The 1970s anti-sexist men’s movement had an infrastructure of magazines, conferences, men’s centres…
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
by Susan Campbell, Ph.D.
According to most of the singles I have met in my travels, the typical dating situation is fraught…
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
by Glen Park
Flamenco dancing is a delight to watch. A good flamenco dancer exudes an exuberant self-confidence…
Giving Up All Hope Could Be Beneficial For You
Giving Up All Hope Could Be Beneficial For You
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
If you're waiting for a change and frustrated it's not happening, maybe it would be beneficial to…
An Astrologer introduces the Nine Dangers of Astrology
An Astrologer introduces the Nine Dangers of Astrology
by Tracy Marks
Astrology is a powerful art, capable of enhancing our lives by enabling us to understand our own…

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration



New Attitudes - New Possibilities | | | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.