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Some Important Information on Insect Repellents

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An insect repellent: what is it?

The purpose of insect repellents is to minimize the likelihood of localized and systemic consequences, such as illnesses transmitted by insects, by averting insect bites and stings.

What is the purpose of insect repellents?

Known also as “bug spray,” insect repellent works to stop mosquito bites that can cause localized cutaneous responses and to stop the spread of dangerous insect-borne illnesses including dengue fever, zika virus, West Nile virus, malaria, and chikungunya fever. Bite bites from infected ticks transmit the Lyme disease.

Insect repellents: how do they work?

The majority of insect repellents function by forming a vapor barrier that keeps insects from coming into contact with skin. 

  • For instance, mosquitoes employ odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) to sense smells emitted by human skin in order to locate a host on which to feed. 
  • It is challenging to identify a single active ingredient that is effective against the numerous varieties of disease-carrying insects. Insect repellents like DEET suppress mosquito OBPs to prevent them from biting human hosts. 

While some insect repellents are meant to be applied directly to the skin, others can be applied to surrounding environmental structures or materials.

Although no repellent has yet to satisfy all of these requirements, the perfect repellent should be:

  • Effective against a range of insects that bite
  • Aesthetically pleasing (e.g., smells okay or isn’t too oily).
  • Abrasive, sweat- and hand-washing-resistant
  • Capable of offering enduring defense
  • Non-toxic, non-sensitizing, and non-irritating
  • Non-reactive and chemically stable when combined with typical polymers
  • Profitable for broad application. 

In addition to physical precautions like mosquito nets, appropriate clothing, and clearing out any environmental waste that can serve as a breeding ground, insect repellents should be employed.

Insect repellents come in two varieties: chemical and plant-derived.

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Chemically Prepared Insect Repellents

DEET

  • N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide is the chemical name.
  • The most potent and all-around insect repellent created to date.
  • Disposable in concentrations between 5 and 100%.
    • Effective protection is offered by concentrations between 10 and 35 percent; employing doses higher than this is regarded to offer no discernible further benefits.
    • Cardiovascular and neurological problems, urticaria, and vesiculobullous skin necrosis can result from concentrations between 50 and 75 percent.
  • Comes in a variety of forms, such as impregnated towelettes, aerosol and pump sprays, gels, lotions, creams, and solutions.
  • When using sunscreen, proceed with caution, as:
    • Reapplying sunscreen more frequently may be required since DEET diminishes its efficacy by up to one-third. 
    • Sunscreen may also enhance DEET’s systemic absorption and possible toxicity.
  • DEET has a stellar safety record when used appropriately, and it’s safe to use when pregnant or nursing (just don’t apply it near your breasts).
  • Approved for usage at lower dosages in children as early as two months of age.  

 

Picardin

  • Known also as propidine and icaridin.
  • Available in 7–20% concentrations.
  • Has no smell and, when applied, doesn’t feel greasy or sticky.
  • Minimal toxicity potential and minimal likelihood of causing skin irritation.
  • Comparable effectiveness to DEET; but, because DEET is accessible in larger dosages, it is advised in high-risk scenarios.
  • Safe to use while nursing and pregnancy.
  • Not recommended in children younger than 2 years.
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IR3535

  • Biodegradable, colorless, and nearly odorless.
  • Available in 7.5-20% concentrations.
  • At concentrations less than 20%, seems to be just as effective as DEET.
  • Babies less than six months should not use this.

Insect repellents produced from plants

It is not advised to use plant-based repellents in conditions that are moderately or very risky, even if some of them have demonstrated good repellent activity. However, none of them have exhibited the same level of wide efficiency and length of protection as DEET. 

Permethrin

  • Intended to treat clothes, this insect repellent and pesticide made from chrysanthemum flower extracts shouldn’t be applied directly to skin.
  • Permethrin spray lasts for at least two weeks and is nearly odorless. Every five washings, it should be reapplied. 
  • High dosages of permethrin can be dangerous. Side effects include tremors, loss of coordination, hyperactivity, paralysis, and irritation of the skin and eyes. 

Others

  • Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, which comes from Corymbia citriodora.
  • Citronella, which is a product of Cymbopogon nardus.
  • Oil extracted from catnip (Nepeta cataria).
  • 2-Undecanone (produced from Dunal f. glabratum Lycopersicon hirsutum).

What advantages does insect repellent offer?

  • Less chance of infections carried by insects and the local and systemic consequences of bug bites. 

What drawbacks does insect repellant have?

  • Reapplying insect repellent is necessary if you perspire or go swimming.
  • A lot of preparations have a disagreeable smell or feel greasy when applied, which detracts from their aesthetic appeal.
  • Plastics and vinyls are examples of synthetic materials that DEET and IR3535 may deteriorate. 

What dangers and adverse consequences come with using insect repellent?

  • When used properly, they are harmless and seldom hazardous.
  • Irritation of the eyes or localized areas is the most frequent adverse reaction to insect repellant. 

What are the avoidance guidelines and limitations while using insect repellent?

Restrictions

  • Excessive sensitivity to a certain repellant.

 

Take Care

  • Avoid applying to open wounds, breathing in the fumes, or getting it in your eyes or other mucous membranes.
  • Use in conjunction with clothes to reduce the amount of skin that is accessible to the biting bug; avoid applying to big regions of skin.
  • Exercise caution when using sunscreens together since this may decrease their effectiveness and raise the risk of sunburn and other photo damage.

Wrapping Up

Selecting the best insect repellent might resemble negotiating a confusing maze of ingredients and marketing hype. But keep in mind that the fundamental goal is still the same: preventing bothersome insects and the diseases they could transmit. Although there isn’t a single repellant that works for everyone, knowing the many possibilities and their benefits and drawbacks gives you the freedom to choose the right one for your particular requirements.

In terms of effectiveness and range of protection, DEET is the best option for high-risk scenarios. Its oily texture and possible interaction with sunscreen, however, call for caution. Picaridin is a milder and odorless substitute, although IR3535 has environmental benefits. Although promising, plant-based repellents sometimes don’t work as well or last as long against a larger variety of insects.

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