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Using mosquito repellents for traveling is essential in places where diseases like Zika, malaria or Dengue fever mean high risk. Although most popular tourist destinations work actively against these annoying insects and try to reduce the mosquito population in order to provide visitors with a safe and enjoyable holiday experience, it is better if you take responsibility for your own safety. Read our tips on what repellents work the best against mosquitoes and how to use them!
Why mosquito repellents are important
Mosquito bites are not only painful and uncomfortable but can cause serious, in worst cases deadly illnesses. Parasites or viruses can get into your blood system with the saliva of the mosquito that bites you.
Dangerous mosquito species can be found in almost all countries, but mosquito-borne diseases typically affect tropical countries where we spend our well-deserved beach and snorkeling vacations. Using mosquito repellents for traveling in order to minimize the risk of mosquito-related tropical illnesses is as important as learning how to stay safe in the ocean (I recommend reading about snorkeling safety too).
Avoiding bites is the most important for children and pregnant women. Combining physical and chemical solutions works best against mosquitoes. Installing mosquito screens and using a net over your bed are basic yet important steps when fighting against biting insects. When outside, wearing long-sleeved clothing is crucial, but using effective mosquito repellents ensures the highest protection.
Most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases
- Dengue fever
- Yellow fever
- West Nile Fever
- Sindbis virus
Natural vs synthetic mosquito repellents
Mosquitoes find their victims following smells and heat. The carbon dioxide we exhale, and the molecules we create when sweating are signals for them where the food is. Synthetic mosquito repellents perform better on tests regarding effectiveness and provide longer protection, almost 100% in the first 2 hours. When visiting countries where mosquito-borne diseases mean high risk, DEET repellents are the most reliable.
But for summer night walks or garden parties at home, you might go for non-chemical products. Some people are skeptical about the effectiveness of essential oils, but certain natural elements are proven to be effective in keeping mosquitoes at bay. Natural products are less likely causing skin irritation but require frequent re-application because they are effective in the first 30-60 minutes only.
What repellents work the best
The US Center for Disease Control recommends DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 and OLE (oil of eucalyptus) containing mosquito repellents. These ingredients are considered safe to use for adults including pregnant women, kids and babies too if consumers follow the actual product’s instructions.
Diethyltoluamide (DEET) is the first commonly used repellent that was developed by US Army over 70 years ago. Repellents that contain 15-30 % DEET provide reliable protection. Despite safety concerns, according to EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency DEET containing products are safe if used as directed both for adults and children.
A synthetic mosquito repellent that models the compound of black pepper plants. Products containing 20% Picaridin are effective and considered safe to use even on infants. Many manufacturers prefer to use Picaridin over DEET because it is not oily, doesn’t have a strong smell but features similar effectiveness. Picaridin enjoys World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for malaria prophylaxis.
A synthetic amino acid that is structurally similar to the natural amino acid B-alanine. It was developed by Merck as an alternative to DEET. IR3535-containing items are recommended if there is a Chikungunya outbreak and are considered to work well against Zika virus mosquitos. The manufacturer recommends using products with 10 to 30 % IR3535.
Tip: babies have very sensitive skin, so despite that synthetic repellents are stated safe to use, the best way is to skip using chemicals on children younger than 2 years and protect them by using a net for strollers.
Oil of lemon eucalyptus
This natural gum eucalyptus tree extract wards off insects if the product contains at least 30 %. OLE is a biochemical pesticide, an effective alternative to DEET and safe to use on adults but not recommended on young kids under 3 years.
The best mosquito repellents
To minimize the number of mosquito bites, the best is to practice physical protection (wearing long-sleeved clothing, installing mosquito nets) and using effective mosquito repellents that contain DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, Oil of lemon eucalyptus or other natural repellents.
Both chemical and natural repellents work by masking odors and/or blocking mosquito’s smell receptors. From classical sprays, and lotions to bracelets and ultrasound plug-in devices, the selection is wide and now we investigate what are the best ones.
Effective mosquito repellents to buy:
- Thermacell device
- Ultrasonic repeller
- Citronella candle
- Incense stick
- Essential oil soap
- Mosquito net
Tip: The US Center of Disease Control doesn’t recommend sunscreen-mosquito repellent combination products. The repellent might decrease the sunscreen’s UV radiation feature, while the UV blocking ingredient might increase the repellent’s toxicity. If you need sun protection too, apply the sunblock first then the repellent. Make sure you use a reef safe sunscreen!
Mosquito repellent spray
No matter whether you choose a natural or DEET or Picaridin mosquito spray, make sure that it provides you with high-level protection. You can spray your clothes or skin, but the ingredients remain effective longer on the skin. We all have different skin types and the ingredients might work differently for each of us. Therefore, it is good to test various products until you find one that works for you the best. Natural mosquito sprays contain a mix of citronella, geraniol, lemongrass and peppermint oils.
On top of a pleasant scent, you will enjoy natural protection so you can enjoy your outdoor activities carefreely. Synthetic sprays with DEET or Picaridin perform the best on repellent tests against Zika, malaria, dengue or West Nile virus mosquitoes. They give long protection up to 8-10 hours without re-application.
Lotion against insects
This fragrance-free, 20% Picaridin-containing lotion provides you a 14-hour long protection against chikungunya, Zika, West Nile Virus and Dengue mosquitoes. The handy small packets are perfect for traveling, while the pump dispensers are good to keep at home or in your beach house where the whole family can use it. Lotions are effective a little longer than sprays because of slower evaporation.
- easy to apply lotion form
- contains 20% Picaridin
- long-lasting effect up to 14 hours
- fragrance free and safe to use on the whole family
Thermacell mosquito repellent portable device
An absolute customers’ favorite, the Thermacell is the best lightweight, portable device that is DEET free and fragrance-free. It creates a 15ft bug-free zone no matter it is your patio or a camping area. The Thermacell mosquito repellent operates with a fuel cartridge and mats that are easily changeable and available in different colors to match the environment.
- an easy-to-use, DEET-free and scent-free portable device
- creates a 15x15 ft bug-free zone
- perfect for any outdoor activity
- available in different colors
Ultrasonic pest repeller
Devices working with ultrasound offer a chemical-free alternative to keep away not only bugs but also mice, cockroaches, spiders and rats. The device creates electromagnetic frequency, which is not audible to humans, and doesn’t bother cats or dogs but pests so they will stay away. Use it in your house, garage or backyard, the area will be free of pests!
- newest technology pest repeller
- effective against insects, spiders, cockroaches but rats and mice too
- ultrasonic technology, no harmful chemicals
The fashionable natural oil-infused bracelets look cool and keep mosquitoes and other annoying insects like flies and gnats effectively off. Just simply put one on the wrist or ankle and enjoy your outdoor activity. The bracelets are available in different versions such as soft microfiber bracelets that are infused with essential oils, one-size-fits-all adjustable plastic ones or silicone models with replaceable oil pellets.
- adjustable bracelets with citronella, geraniol and lemongrass essential oils
- individually packed spiral bands
- perfect for traveling
- DEET-free, safe for kids too
Insect repellent wipes
Mosquito wipes are faster and more convenient to use than sprays. Easy to re-apply if needed. The special formula is water and sweat-resistant and gives you long-lasting protection against several kind of biting insects including flies, gnats, ticks, etc…
- individually packed easy-to-use towelettes
- 25% active DEET
- non-greasy, water and sweat resistant formula
Mosquito repellent patches
The convenient, DEET-free patches provide you with long protection. No harmful effects, safe for kids too. Easy to use, perfect for any outdoor activity like camping, boating, walking or when traveling to tropical places.
- all natural formula containing Citronella, Lemongrass, Geraniol
- concentrated formula for faster absorption
- safe for babies too
Another natural way to drive unwanted bugs and insects away is burning natural oil incense sticks that are perfect for indoor/outdoor. These non-toxic chemical-free sticks contain natural repellents such as citronella, lemongrass and lavender oil. For the best result, place multiple sticks on the ground to get the most concentration of oil in the air!
- DEET-free eco-friendly sticks
- contain natural repellent oils (lemongrass, citronella)
- each stick is good for 90 minutes
Natural repellent candles
Burning natural oil-containing candles is a great natural way to keep mosquitoes at bay. The candle fills the air with repellent oil creating a scented cloud where biting insects won’t be able to detect humans. Soy oil based, no paraffin, 100% essential oil candles are environment and eco-friendly!
- 100% eco-friendly soy candle
- high essential oil concentration to keep biting insects off
- burning time 80 hours
- handmade in the USA
Essential oils soap
Ensuring reliable bug protection simply while taking a shower using only natural elements sounds heavenly. This no-bite mosquito soap contains a special blend of quality essential oils but doesn’t have DEET or other chemicals. It leaves a pleasant smell on your skin that helps to drive away flying insects.
- best quality soap with pure essential oils
- preventive and after bite treatment
- package includes 2 oz. tube of cream plus 5 oz. soap bar
- American handmade products
Mosquito net for traveling
Using screens and nets is definitely the most effective chemical-free way keeping unwanted visitors off, but of course, you cannot install mosquito screens in your hotel room or rental apartment when traveling. Buying a travel size mosquito net that you can take everywhere is such a brilliant idea! A lightweight mosquito tent is very easy to set up thanks to the self-supporting frame. No hook needed, just simply pop it up and enjoy peaceful nights!
- high quality net made with breathable material
- with zippers for easy going in and out
- self supporting system, no assembly kit required
- easy-to-carry, fits into luggage bigger than 18inch
Mosquito repellent essential oils
The best natural solution to keep mosquitoes at bay is using essential oils. Certain essential oils are very effective against mosquitoes and they are often among the ingredients of commercial mosquito repellents as well.
Compared to chemical-containing products, essential oils are safer to use and less likely to cause skin irritation. Although they are highly volatile, meaning that are effective only for a short time, therefore you need frequently re-apply them.
Best essential oils to keep mosquitoes away
- Tea tree
How to make a natural mosquito repellent?
If you prefer natural solutions over DEET-containing bug sprays, you can easily create your own natural mosquito repellent spray!
What you need:
- mixing jar, spray container
- 1 bottle natural witch hazel
- essential oils (citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, tea tree)
To prepare the spray, pour witch hazel into the clean glass mixing jar and add the essential oils. A good combination is 15 drops of citronella oil and 15 drops of lemongrass oil. You can add 10 drops of peppermint oil to give the mixture a refreshing scent and increase the repellent effect.
Moreover, you can also add 10 drops of tea tree oil to the mixture which is an excellent antiseptic. Mix everything well and pour it into the spray bottle and your homemade, natural mosquito repellent spray is ready to use!
Shake the mixture before each use since the ingredients might separate. Be careful when spraying it on clothes because the oils might leave a stain.
How to apply mosquito repellents correctly?
- always read and follow the directions on product label
- if possible, do a skin allergy test on a small area before using on the whole body
- use repellent on exposed skin areas, on clothing but not under clothing
- don’t spray directly on your face, spray the palm of your hand first then apply to the face
- avoid the mouth and eyes, use it carefully around the ears
- don’t let kids use repellents alone
- don’t use it on sunburned, irritated skin or on cuts
- do not use repellents near food or in enclosed areas
- the ingredients may harm materials like spandex, wood, leather, synthetics, therefore keeping them away from furniture and surfaces and such clothes. See directions on the product label!
- wash the repellent off the skin with soap and warm water when returning home
- wash the treated clothes before wearing them again, the best is separately
Mosquito disease symptoms and what to do
If you are in a place where mosquitoes are common, no matter in your home country or at a tropical location, if you experience symptoms like high fever, muscle/bone/joint pain, headache, fatigue, vomiting, severe rash, or itching on yourself, family members or kids, seek medical assistance immediately!
When traveling, make research on what diseases pose a risk in your destination and take necessary precautions such as buying a travel mosquito net and effective repellents.
Always travel with travel insurance to avoid high hospital costs if you have to visit a doctor. Symptoms might begin days or weeks after infection. If you are not feeling well after arriving home from a tropical vacation, visit the nearest tropical diseases center!
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