Mosquito repellents for the adventure travellers


If a pregnant woman and her children decide to visit a malaria prone area your clinician will recommend a topical repellent to protect against mosquitoes and other relevant vaccinations. This in fact applies to any traveller entering mosquito risk areas.


But, which repellent is best?


The key factors are choosing the active chemical ingredient and importantly the appropriate concentration % because it influences the duration and the efficiency of the topical repellent that you apply.


There are four well recognized active chemical ingredients that are effective against most mosquito borne diseases within a topical preparate.

1) DEET – the gold standard recommended by the World Health Organization. The appropriate concentration should be between 20-50% which can last for 6-13 hours.

2) PMD – this is regarded as a natural product and an extract from Eucalyptus citriodora i.e. lemon eucalyptus. The appropriate concentration should be between 30% which can last for 4-6 hours.

3) Icaridintrade names are saltidin, picaridin, bayrepel. The appropriate concentration should be between 20% which can last for up to 6 hours.

4) Insect Repellent 3535 – a synthetic compound. The appropriate concentration should be between 20% which can last for 7-10 hours. NB some evidence shows that it lasts less than 3 hours, so take extra care in endemic mosquito areas!

5) The agents (PMD, Icaridine and Insect Repellent 3535) have been registered with the world Health Organization as safe for use, but its important to note that they have only been in the public space for a limited amount of time and we may still need time to gather more appropriate information about their use and effects.


Did you know that these repellents also offer protection against:

* Ticks

* Sand flies



1) Most repellents will only last from 4-8 hours depending on the active ingredient and the concentration of the topical agent.

2) Some research shows that 33.5% of DEET reduces the protection of sunscreen, so travellers will be at risk of sun burn if additional sun protection factor (SPF) is not applied.

4) IR3535 is not recommended within malaria endemic areas.

5) Apply at the correct times of the day i.e. dawn, dusk and evening. Some new strains within the East Asia & South America have been shown to bite during the day especially in forest areas, so be sure to research your target travel areas before you enter.

6) Were long sleeves and pants were possible and apply agent to exposed skin, except the face, eyes etc.


The Consensus: Mosquito repellents for travellers and kids entering potential mosquito areas:


* Use topical repellents with the four proven active agreements within and importantly at the correct concentrations. They include DEET (20-50%), PMD (30%), Icaridin (20-50%) and IR3535 (20%) is recommended only in areas that are NOT malaria endemic.

* Reapply repellents at least 6 to 8 hours after using DEET or IR3535 or 4 to 6 hours for PMD and Icaridin.

* Remember they tend to wear off with outdoor activities like swimming, cycling and sweating while exerting energy especially in warm climates, so be very aware of this and the importance of reapplication.

* DEET can be applied to babies over the age of eight weeks.

* PMD can be applied to children over the age of three years.


* DEET is safe for use from the second and third trimester onwards and can be used by women who are breast feeding.