Your Ultimate Guide to Finding the Right Insect Repellent
, by Aussie Pharma Direct, 14 min reading time
, by Aussie Pharma Direct, 14 min reading time
Insect repellents are not merely accessories for your outdoor excursions; they are essential tools for safeguarding your health and well-being. Insect bites can do more than just leave you scratching uncomfortably; they can transmit diseases that pose significant risks to human health.
In this blog post, we'll guide you through what you need to know about insect repellents, helping you understand the various types, active ingredients, and application methods so that you can choose the most suitable repellent for your specific needs and preferences.
Before we delve into the details of choosing the right insect repellent, it's crucial to understand the enemy we're up against. Insects come in all shapes and sizes, and while many are harmless, there are those that can transmit diseases or simply make your outdoor experience less enjoyable, such as:
Mosquitoes are perhaps the most infamous among disease-transmitting insects with symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening. They are responsible for spreading diseases like malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus, and Ross River virus, which is prevalent in Australia, especially during the warmer months.
Ticks may be small but they have a big reputation for causing trouble. They are notorious for transmitting Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other tick-borne illnesses. In Australia, the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is notorious for transmitting toxins that can cause paralysis or severe allergic reactions. It's commonly found in bushland and coastal regions, and it can be relentless near water bodies.
Flies, including biting midges, sandflies and the Australian bushfly (Musca vetustissima), can be a real nuisance, leaving painful bites and causing discomfort, especially if you’re in regions with wetlands, lakeshores, or coastal areas, including in rural and outback areas.
While ants in Australia aren't typically disease carriers, they can be relentless pests during picnics, outdoor meals, or camping trips in national parks and nature reserves. Certain species, like the aggressive bull ant, can deliver painful stings.
5. Bees and wasps
For individuals with bee or wasp allergies, the presence of these insects can be life-threatening. While repellents may not deter them, if you're allergic to bee or wasp stings, it's crucial to be cautious and aware of your surroundings, especially in areas where these insects are prevalent.
While natural alternatives may be preferred due to their perceived safety and eco-friendliness, their efficacy can vary, and they may need to be reapplied more frequently than synthetic repellents.
Effectiveness of insect repellents can vary depending on the type of insect being targeted and the active ingredient used.
Effectiveness against insects
Duration of protection
Protection by concentration
Highly effective against mosquitoes, ticks, flies, gnats, and chiggers.
Particularly known for mosquitoes and ticks.
4 to 8+ hours (varies with concentration)
- 5% DEET (about 90 minutes)
- 25% DEET (about 5 hours)
Insect repellent with DEET is preferred for regions with mosquito-borne diseases or tick exposure.
Concentrations up to 30% available.
Effective against mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and gnats.
Popular alternative to DEET.
4 to 8 hours
5 -10% Picaridin
Mild odour and feel; suitable for mosquitoes in various destinations. Concentrations typically 5-20%.
IR3535 (Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate)
Effective against mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and chiggers.
Several hours (varies with concentration)
Based on research, products containing IR3535 could offer up to 6.5 hours protection from Culex mosquitoes.
Not as well known as DEET or picaridin but still offers reliable protection against various insects.
Natural alternatives (Essential oils)
Varies by essential oil; effective against mosquitoes, midges, ticks, sand flies, or other specific insects.
1 to 4 hours (depending on oil and formulation)
Good Riddance Insect Repellents can offer up to 5 hours protection
Concentrations vary by product and essential oil
Natural, plant-based options with varying scents.
Reapplication may be needed.
Safety is a crucial aspect when it comes to the use of insect repellents, particularly concerning vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant individuals, and those with sensitive skin. Here are safety considerations for insect repellents and recommended concentrations for different age groups and skin types:
Children generally have smaller body sizes and different metabolic rates compared to adults. This means that the concentration of active ingredients in repellents can have a more significant impact on a child's body relative to their weight and size, potentially increasing the risk of side effects.
2. Pregnant women
Pregnant women are generally advised to minimise exposure to unnecessary chemicals during pregnancy to reduce any potential risks to the developing foetus. When applied to the skin, the chemicals from synthetic repellents can be absorbed into the bloodstream, potentially leading to systemic exposure.
Individuals with sensitive skin may be more prone to skin irritation or allergic reactions when using insect repellents. It's essential to choose products that are formulated to be gentle on the skin.
Still have some worries? Your next best alternative is to use natural insect repellent
Despite the recommendations above about the concentrations for DEET use, the safest and the most reliable option for protection would be to use natural insect repellents.
Natural repellents such as that of Good Riddance Sensitive are often recommended for these vulnerable groups, such as young children, pregnant women, and those with sensitive skin, due to their perceived safety and generally milder formulations.
The potential environmental impact of insect repellents, particularly when they enter water bodies, is a matter of concern due to their chemical composition and the potential harm they can cause to aquatic ecosystems.
Potential environmental impact
Choosing the right repellent for your specific needs involves considering several factors, including your destination, activity level, and personal preferences. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you make an informed decision:
1. Identify your destination and insect threats - Different regions and seasons may have varying risks
2. Consider the type and duration of outdoor activities you plan to engage in:
3. Familiarise yourself with the active ingredients in repellents and their effectiveness against specific insects
4. Think about your personal preferences and any specific concerns:
7. For individuals with sensitive skin or those trying a new product, it's advisable to perform a patch test on a small area of skin before full application to check for any adverse reactions.
Using insect repellent is undoubtedly effective in reducing the risk of insect bites, but it's important to remember that it may not be completely foolproof on its own. Combining multiple preventive measures, including using insect repellent, wearing appropriate clothing, and following the tips mentioned above, can significantly reduce your risk of insect bites and the associated health risks, especially when travelling to regions with known insect-borne diseases or high insect activity.