Malaria and monsoon go hand-in-hand, especially when in waterlogged and damp places. But you can prevent it by knowing how to use mosquito repellents safely.

Monsoon brings a lot of rainfall and humidity, creating the perfect breeding ground for malaria, which is a life-threatening disease that spreads to people when infected female Anopheles mosquitoes bite them. Making sure mosquitoes don’t bite you can help you prevent malaria. You can wear long, and loose clothes, and spend less time outside. Placing screens over your windows and getting rid of stagnant water can also help. Using mosquito repellents is another way to prevent malaria. They come in coils, patches, candles, sprays, and lotions. You may have some concerns about safely applying mosquito repellents. Here’s how to use mosquito repellents safely.

What are mosquito repellents?

Mosquito repellents are products designed to stop mosquitoes from landing on and biting humans. They typically contain active ingredients that mosquitoes find unpleasant or confusing, so they help in preventing them from seeking out a host, says dermatologist Dr Mandeep Singh.

How to use mosquito repellents: Tips for safety and effectiveness
DEET is an effective mosquito repellent. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

How to choose the right mosquito repellent?

To avoid ending up with itchy, and bumpy skin due to malaria, go for the following mosquito repellents:

1. DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide)

It is one of the most effective mosquito repellents, providing protection against insects, including mosquitoes. When several types of mosquito repellents were analysed by researchers during a 2002 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a product containing about 24 percent DEET performed the best. DEET products are available in various concentrations, ranging from 5 to 100 percent, with higher concentrations offering longer protection, says Dr Singh. However, it can have a strong odour and may cause skin irritation in some people.

2. Picaridin

It is a synthetic repellent that offers similar effectiveness to DEET, but with a milder odour and a lighter feel on the skin. Picaridin is less likely to irritate the skin and is considered safe for use for children and pregnant women, says the expert.

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3. Oil of lemon eucalyptus

This natural repellent is derived from the leaves of the lemon eucalyptus tree. The active ingredient, p-Menthane-3,8-diol (PMD), provides protection comparable to low concentrations of DEET. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is effective against mosquitoes and has a pleasant, citrus-like scent. It is a good option for those seeking a natural alternative, but it is not recommended for use for children under three years old, says the expert.

4. Citronella oil

Citronella oil is a natural repellent derived from lemongrass. It provides protection by masking the scents that attract mosquitoes, but its formulation is important when it comes to its effectiveness. When the product with citronella is formulated correctly, it can protect you for up to 2 hours, according to a 2011 research published in the Malaria Journal.

How to apply mosquito repellents?

While applying mosquito repellent, do the following –

1. Apply to clean and dry skin

Mosquito repellents are most effective when applied to clean, dry skin, says the expert. Applying repellent to dry skin ensures that it adheres properly and forms a protective barrier against mosquito bites. If the skin is wet or sweaty, the repellent may not adhere as well, reducing its effectiveness. For best results, follow the instructions on the product label, and reapply as needed, especially after swimming, sweating, or washing.

mosquito repellent cream
Apply mosquito repellent after sunscreen. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock.

2. Let sunscreen dry

Using sunscreen is a must to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. Let it dry then apply mosquito repellent to ensure both products work effectively. When sunscreen is still wet, applying mosquito repellent on top can dilute and spread the sunscreen unevenly, reducing its ability to protect against UV rays. Also, this can cause the mosquito repellent to be less effective as it may not adhere properly to the skin. The combination can lead to inadequate protection from both sunburn and mosquito bites, increasing the risk of skin damage and exposure to mosquito-borne diseases.

3. Skip the sensitive areas

Mosquito repellents should be applied to exposed skin surfaces, but not sensitive areas like eyes and lips. If a mosquito repellent enters the eyes or mouth by mistake, it can cause irritation. In the eyes, repellent can cause burning, redness, tearing, and pain. If it gets into the mouth, it may lead to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or an unpleasant taste, says the expert, Immediate action should be taken by rinsing the eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes or by rinsing the mouth and drinking water.

4. Maintain distance while using sprays

While creams and lotions should be rubbed onto the skin, sprays should be sprayed evenly from about 6 to 8 inches away to ensure even distribution and proper coverage. This distance helps create a fine mist that can cover the skin uniformly, avoiding clumps or streaks. Applying sprays too closely can result in an uneven application, where some areas may receive too much product while others get too little, compromising the effectiveness of the spray. Also, holding the spray at the recommended distance minimises the risk of inhaling the product, which can be harmful to the respiratory system. Also, avoid spraying directly on the face; instead, spray onto hands and then apply carefully, avoiding eyes and mouth.

Whether you are indoors and outdoors, you must use a mosquito repellent during the day and night on exposed skin. However, don’t apply the product around your eyes and mouth as it could lead to irritation and nausea.

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