Repelling mosquitoes: Everything you need to know

A holiday’s arch enemy [Photo: Pexels]
A holiday’s arch enemy [Photo: Pexels]

Whether you’re worried about the diseases they can transmit or just have little tolerance for itches, no one welcomes a mosquito bite.

The insects are everywhere, from that Balinese beach hut you’re visiting in September to your front garden, and can cause anything from mild discomfort to a deadly illness.

But it’s possible to outwit them.

Use the right repellent

Don’t let them ruin an evening on the beach [Photo: Pexels]
Don’t let them ruin an evening on the beach [Photo: Pexels]

You only need to catch a whiff of a DEET-based insect repellent to know that it’s pretty strong stuff.

Which is why the Advisory Committee for Malaria Prevention (ACMP) strongly recommends it for travellers, whether you go for the lighter or real-deal option.

The concentration of a DEET repellent is what determines how long it will last for. The lowest recommended amount, 20%, will last for one-to-three hours while 50% will last for 12.

Some people prefer to use alternative repellents but, according to the NHS, few are as effective as DEET. Oil of Citronella is a popular option, for example, but is much too weak to offer adequate protection.

Apply repellent correctly

Beautiful landscapes can still hide plenty of bugs [Photo: Pexels]
Beautiful landscapes can still hide plenty of bugs [Photo: Pexels]

If you’re planning on using sunscreen at the same time as DEET, apply the latter second as its effectiveness reduces more rapidly than sunscreen and will thus need replacing more often.

DEET also reduces SPF, so opt for a higher sunscreen (30-50 SPF) generally.

Keep in mind that DEET isn’t safe for kids below two months, but that you should use it while pregnant as malaria is risky for pregnant women. Opt for a 50% strength if you are.

Nets, nets, nets

Use one in insect-heavy countries, or the morning after won’t be a pretty one [Photo: Pexels]
Use one in insect-heavy countries, or the morning after won’t be a pretty one [Photo: Pexels]

If a hotel abroad provides you with a mosquito net, use it. Or bring your own.

The best are treated with something called a pyrethroid insecticide which makes one way more effective than your average net.

While what most definitely won’t are holes, which need to be patched up right away.

While using one, don’t lean on it as the mozzies will still be able to reach you, and while you’re not using it tuck it under your mattress to stop letting insects into your bedding.

Pick your garments wisely

You’ll regret wearing a vest [Photo: Pexels]
You’ll regret wearing a vest [Photo: Pexels]

Don’t underestimate the power of clothing.

Besides protecting you from the sun, keeping covered up means reducing how much of your skin the mosquito can get to.

Think light-coloured clothing with high necks, long sleeves and long legs. It doesn’t have to be tight and thick, either – keep it loose, thin and breezy.

You can also spray it with the same insecticide permethrin found in some mosquito nets, but avoid washing them regularly as the effect will fade.

Keep those windows closed

Don’t be tempted [Photo: Pexels]
Don’t be tempted [Photo: Pexels]

Us Brits aren’t very good with our heat and have all given into the temptation of opening shutters or windows at night to let the breeze in.

Hint: Don’t; not between dusk to dawn, anyway, unless you want to make friends with a variety of bugs including our old pals mosquitoes.

You can also use pyrethroid products like candles and those little plug-in things too to keep your room bite-free.

Don’t fall for quackery

They’re too good to be true [Photo: Pexels]
They’re too good to be true [Photo: Pexels]

That herbal remedy claiming to make you invincible to mosquitoes? Yeah, it won’t work.

The ACMP strongly advises against relying on herbal remedies, vitamins or homeopathy as there’s zero evidence that they’re effective.

And those buzzers that give off high-frequency sounds are a load of rubbish too.

If in doubt, spray a load of DEET on it.

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