Why do we need insect protection?
Mosquitoes, ticks and biting flies transmit many diseases. These diseases can range from mild flu-like symptoms that subside in a week or two, to serious, often lifelong recurring, debilitating illnesses.
Mosquitoes are the most "successful" of biting insects, playing a major global role in the spread of serious infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, as well as yellow fever, viral encephalitis, filariasis, and more. Although mosquitoes subsist on a vegetarian diet, the females require blood to obtain the proteins necessary to lay eggs. Just remember, whether you get sick or not, every time you allow yourself to be bitten by a mosquito, you are helping to propagate the species! Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, but bites can occur at any time of day or night.
Ticks and biting flies also transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease, typhus, leishmaniasis, and other tropical and infectious diseases. Fortunately, several of the same methods we use to combat mosquitoes are equally effective against these insects.
While it is true that not all mosquitoes, ticks, and biting flies carry dangerous diseases, please remember that it only takes ONE infected insect to make you ill. Even if the insect that bites you is not carrying disease, the bites typically cause itching and swelling, and may become infected--all in all, they are much better avoided!
How can we protect ourselves?
The combination of topical insect repellent (especially those containing the ingredient DEET) applied to the skin, insecticide (permethrin applied to clothing), and mosquito netting (for sleeping) will provide up to 99.9% protection against insect bites.
DEET is the most effective and widely used topical insect repellent, and should be considered the first line of defense in the battle of the bites. Certified by the US Government in 1954, it works by masking the odor of carbon dioxide given off by the body (bugs find this odor irresistible), thereby making us unattractive to the insect population.
DEET based repellent is extremely effective when applied evenly to ALL exposed areas of skin, and typically retains its potency for 3-4 hours between applications. Adults should use concentrations of at least 15%.
Note: DEET concentrations of 55% or more are probably unnecessary and may cause toxicity with extended use.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that parents using insect repellents on their children use products containing 6 to 10% DEET and that they only apply it to children over the age of two.
The oils of many plants have been shown to have repellent properties, including citronella, camphor, lemongrass, clove, eucalyptus and others. Citronella has proven the most effective of the natural repellents, and is available in North America and Europe. Although it is less effective than DEET and requires far more frequent applications, it is a wonderful alternative for children or those who may have allergic reactions to repellents containing DEET.
Unlike repellents, insecticides are not designed to discourage the approach of biting insects, but to kill them on contact.
Unlike DEET, which is used as a topical repellent, Permethrin is an insecticide applied only to fabrics; primarily clothing and mosquito netting. It is a synthetic formulation of a natural insecticide produced by chrysanthemum flowers, and is non-staining and odorless.
Although highly toxic to insects, Permethrin, when used correctly, is not hazardous to humans, as very little is absorbed through the skin, and any that is absorbed is quickly metabolized. To date, no cases of Permethrin toxicity have been recorded.
Facts about Permethrin
- ● Effective against mosquitoes, ticks, flies and other insects
- ● Biodegradable
- ● Kills insects that land on fabric
- ● Safe. Human toxicity does not occur when used correctly
- ● Won't harm fabric, including silk
- ● Odorless and non-staining
- ● Adheres to fabric through several washes--we suggest reapplication every two to four weeks.
Mosquito Netting Generally speaking, there are two basic weaves of mosquito netting:
- ● No-See-Ums are tiny biting insects that thrive in cooler climates, and are often found in Canada, Alaska and other northern regions. Because they are much smaller than mosquitoes, the mesh used for No-See-Um protection is a much tighter weave.
- ● In warmer, more tropical climates where No-See-Ums are not found, a looser weave is desired to allow cooling air circulation. Because mosquitoes are considerably larger than No-See-Ums, the weave is still sufficiently tight to provide mosquito protection.
The addition of Permethrin to either size weave will afford excellent additional protection against any biting insect.
Source: Magellan's Travel