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Bug Repellents for World Travelers

Posted by Mark Gallo on

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Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Understandably Zika virus is getting all the attention right now for travelers considering Brazil and the Caribbean; however, mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya are much more widespread.

  • Dengue is considered a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with an estimated 400 million cases last year. It occurs in more urban areas than malaria, and is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito - the same species responsible for the Zika virus.
  • Malaria occurs in warm, humid regions. There were an estimated 200 million cases in 2015. The disease comes from the Plasmodium parasite that infects Anopheles mosquitos. It is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, southern India, and New Guinea.
  • Chikungunya is a virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito and occurs in the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, equatorial Africa, parts of the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia.

Most of us are aware deer ticks can be infected with Lyme disease but you should also be aware that this disease - called borreliosis outside of the U.S. - occurs in central and eastern Europe as well as southern Canada.

The Best Bug Repellents

No one likes the idea of rubbing chemicals on their skin to ward off bugs, but the risk of getting seriously ill from a mosquito bite in the tropics is very motivating. Follow the CDC recommendations and use only EPA-registered bug repellents. Consumer Reports testing determined that repellents with 20% picaridin or 25% deet were the most long-lasting and effective against mosquitoes. They specifically recommended avoiding products with citronella, lemongrass oil, and rosemary oil as they were ineffective. Apply sunscreen first before applying bug repellent.

Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent - 20% picaridin solution in a carry-on sized 3 oz. spray pump bottle. Consumer Reports recommended.

Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent - a safe, effective alternative to Deet.

Natrapel Insect Repellent Wipes - 20% picaridin wipes can be applied exactly where you want it.

Natrapel is a Picaridin (non-DEET) bug repellant

Ultrathon Insect Repellent - 30% deet lotion by 3M comes in a 2 oz. carry-on size tube. Recommended by Dr. Mary-Louise Scully, director of the Sansum Clinic Tropical Medicine Center of Santa Barbara.

Ultrathon 12 hour insect repellent lotion.

Ben’s 30% deet spray comes in a 3.4 oz. carry-on size spray bottle. Ben’s also offers 30% deet wipes.

Ben's 30% DEET in a 3.4 oz. pump spray bottleBen's 30% DEET wipes put repellent only where you want it

Sawyer Clothing Insect Repellent - permethrin based, this is enough spray to cover one entire outfit, and lasts up to 6 washings.

Sawyer Insect Repellent for Clothing.

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