How to find the right insect repellent for your journey

Nobody likes being bitten by mosquitos. Bites are itchy, unsightly and sometimes downright painful.
In Europe, on the whole, mosquitos are more irritating than dangerous. But in some parts of the world mosquitos can do far more damage than the bite visible on the skin as they can transmit serious illnesses such as Malaria and Dengue Fever. In such cases, prevention is better than cure and adequate bite avoidance is crucial to avoid getting ill. Check out our malaria risk map to find more information about the risks and recommended prevention regimen in your destination.

Which Insect Repellent is right for you?

Insect repellents come in many forms, strengths and sizes. The one you choose should be influenced by factors such as where you are travelling, your likelihood of exposure to biting insects and any skin sensitivity.  This blog post aims to help you decide.

What is DEET?

DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is the most commonly used active ingredient in insect repellents today. It has been proven to be highly effective when reapplied regularly. DEET at a concentration of 20% (Pyramid Repel 20 Insect Repellent Pump Spray) will only last up to 3 hours and frequent reapplication is necessary if you will be around biting insects for long periods . DEET at a concentration of 50% (Jungle Formula Maximum Strength Insect Repellent Pump Spray) has the longest duration of action at 12 hours although it may need reapplying more regularly in hot humid countries and after swimming.

What Insect Repellent is recommended in a Malaria risk area?

DEET at a concentration of up to 50% is recommended for use by the Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention for anyone travelling to a malaria risk area who is not allergic including children over 2 months of age and pregnant and breast feeding women. If you have particularly sensitive skin then there is a small risk of a reaction to DEET. This risk rises at higher concentrations of DEET so stick to the lower concentrations and reapply more regularly. Furthermore, if you are going to be at exposed to biting insects for prolonged periods (e.g backpackers or hikers) use a higher concentration as this affords longer lasting protection such as Pyramid Repel 100 Pump Spray Insect Repellent.

Is DEET smelly?

DEET has a distinctive chemical smell. Microencapsulated products such as Pyramid Repel Ultra Insect Repellent may have reduced smell. Pyramid Repel Ultra provides the same level of protection as 100% DEET but with a third of the DEET due to its slow release formulation.  One application could last up to 12 hours. This is particularly good for anybody going on a jungle hike or who will be around bugs for prolonged periods.

Is DEET safe?

If used as instructed by the manufacturer DEET is perfectly safe. It shouldn’t be ingested (so avoid putting hands in mouth with children) and it can damage some plastics and synthetic materials such as watch straps.

Is DEET required in Europe?

In Europe, there is no risk of malaria or many other mosquito bourne diseases.  As a result, your level of protection can be reduced to a mild repellent such as Jungle Formula Insect Repellent Sensitive Skin Lotion. This is not suitable for high risk destinations.

If you are travelling with kids, you may want to use something natural on the skin such as Lifesystems Natural Kids 30+ Spray which is made from a blend of natural plant oils and extracts from lemon eucalyptus . It can last up to 8 hours. Whilst this is fine in Europe we wouldn’t recommend using this in a malaria risk area as DEET (or equivalent) would be required.

My skin reacts to DEET but I’m travelling to a high risk area- what can I use?

DEET can cause reactions in sensitive skin. You can try using a lower strength DEET formulation and applying more frequently. However, if you are allergic there are alternatives designed specifically for sensitive individuals. Pyramid Repel Sensitive uses an alternative active ingredient Saltidin (also known as Ircaridin) at 20% which has been proven to be as effective as 50% DEET. It is generally much better on sensitive skin and is less likely to damage synthetic materials.

What other measures can I adopt?

To further reduce your risk of getting bitten you should cover up by wearing long sleeved clothing at dawn and dusk in malaria risk areas (as this is when malaria transmitting mosquitos bite), try using clothing treatment such as Lifesystems Expedition Ex4 Mosquito Control Fabric Treatment and sleeping under a mosquito net at night. This is particularly important in budget accommodation without air conditioning as mosquitos are more likely to bite in hotter conditions. Remember, mosquitos carrying other diseases such as dengue can bite at any time of day, so be vigilant at all times.

In some parts of the world, antimalarial medication is required alongside bite avoidance measures. Check out our malaria risk map for more information.

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