Insect Repellents
Alaska’s summers are famous for long daylight and plentiful mosquitoes. The only good news about Alaskan mosquitoes is that they do not carry diseases like mosquitos in some areas of the Lower 48. However, due to their ability to ruin outdoor adventures, here are some suggestions on minimizing their effect.
• Wear light weight long sleeve shirts and long pants. These barriers do a good job, although insects can still bite through some clothing. Some clothing comes with repellent applied to the fabric – these are effective, although expensive and the effect may decrease after washing multiple times.
• Insect repellents – the repellents below have been found to be the most effective repellents available. These are all available from the major manufacturers and widely available in local stores.
• DEET – this comes in various concentrations. The higher the concentration increases the duration of its effect. There is no need to using anything stronger than 30% DEET. Use the smaller concentration when only out for a short time, and use the higher concentration for longer activities (e.g., a few hours). There are very few side effects of DEET, especially in the lower concentrations, although many people don’t like the “feel” of DEET on their skin.
• Picaridin – it has been shown to be almost as effective as DEET, and many prefer it to DEET because of its feeling on their skin. Use the 5-10% strength for children.
• Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus – this has a pleasant smell and feel but does not last as long as DEET. It is not recommended for children less than 3 years old.
• IR3535 – lower strength (7.5%) does not work well. This repellent is often combined with a sunscreen (see below).
•There is a large market for homemade and natural repellents, but the best evidence has found these are either ineffective or less effective than the repellents listed above. Examples of these include citronella, garlic, vitamin B1, essential oils, and dryer sheets. Clip-on repellents do not work as well as those listed above.
• Application – Follow directions for applying to skin or clothing. Applying repellent with your hands to your child’s skin is best to control the dose and location. Avoid spraying any repellent near your child’s face. Wash off the repellent with soap and water after returning indoors.
• Avoid repellent/sunscreen combinations – the repellent may reduce the effectiveness of the sunscreen and it is hard to provide an accurate dose of both ingredients.
• The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding repellents for infants younger than 2 months.
Resources:
1. American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org)
2. Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/deet.htm)
3. Consumer Reports (consumerreports.org/health/healthy-living/beauty-personal-care/insect-repellent/overview/index.htm)