Bug Repellents for World Travelers
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.
Natrapel Insect Repellent Wipes - 20% picaridin wipes can be applied exactly where you want it.
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.
Sawyer Clothing Insect Repellent - permethrin based, this is enough spray to cover one entire outfit, and lasts up to 6 washings.