The Unseen Dangers Of Some Mosquito Repellents And The Natural Alternatives That Can Be Used


New Delhi: When a mosquito feeds on blood, it also ingests any viruses or parasites that are present in the blood. The saliva of the mosquito can spread these diseases and parasites to the next person it bites. A mosquito-borne disease is any illness that spreads from a mosquito to a person or animal in this manner. These diseases transmitted by mosquitoes may not hurt the mosquito, but they can severely harm humans. Malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika are common examples of mosquito-borne illnesses.

To protect ourselves from these diseases, we often rely on mosquito repellents. However, while mosquito repellents can be effective, they also come with unseen dangers that we need to be aware of.

One of the most common types of mosquito repellents is DEET, which is a chemical that works by interfering with the mosquito’s sense of smell

In this regard, Dr. Rajkumar, who is a senior consultant- Internal Medicine at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre said “The majority of mosquito repellents contain substances like DEET (diethyltoluamide- the most common active ingredient in mosquito repellents), picaridin, and permethrin, which can irritate the skin, cause rashes, and trigger allergic responses. Long-term exposure to these chemicals may also cause neurological issues such as memory loss, seizures, confusion, uncoordinated movements, and unfriendly conduct. Another concern with mosquito repellents is their potential for misuse. Some people apply repellents excessively or use them on infants and young children, which can be dangerous”

Additionally, mosquito repellents can be dangerous if they are ingested or inhaled. For example, some mosquito coils and liquid vaporizers contain chemicals that can release harmful fumes when heated. 

“These devices emit chemicals that can be harmful to human health when inhaled. Studies have linked prolonged exposure to these chemicals to respiratory problems, such as asthma and bronchitis. To minimize the risks associated with mosquito repellents, it is important to use them responsibly and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer”, Dr. Rajkumar further added.

Additionally, Dr. Shweta Gupta who is a senior consultant in Obs & Gynae and IVF Specialist at Bloom Clinic for Women also shared, “Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid exposure to potentially harmful chemicals as much as possible, especially during the first trimester when foetal development is most critical. While it is generally considered safe to use mosquito repellents containing DEET in small amounts during pregnancy, pregnant women are advised to consult with their healthcare provider before using any insect repellent.”

Given these dangers, it is understandable that people look for safe and natural alternatives to mosquito repellents. In this regard, Dr. Deepak Jain, who is the founder of The Fragrance People spoke about citronella oil which is a natural mosquito repellent that is derived from the leaves and stems of the citronella plant and works by masking the scents that mosquitoes are attracted to, making it harder for them to find their targets.

Speaking about how safe it is to use citronella oil, he said, “It is generally considered to be safe and non-toxic, and it has been used for centuries as a mosquito repellent. Unlike synthetic chemicals like DEET, citronella oil does not pose a risk of skin irritation, eye irritation, or allergic reactions and is also safe for use around pets and other animals.”

“Another advantage of using citronella oil is that it is environmentally friendly. Unlike synthetic chemicals, which can have negative impacts on the environment, citronella oil is biodegradable and does not pose a risk to wildlife or aquatic ecosystems.”, he further added. 

Interestingly, citronella candles can offer up to 50% more protection when used outside. According to 2011 research, the formulation of citronella impacts how effective it is. When the product is properly prepared, it can provide protection for up to two hours and is just as effective as DEET, while citronella can swiftly evaporate if the formula is off, leaving you defenceless.

In addition to citronella oil, other natural ingredients that can be used as mosquito repellants are as follows:

1. Cinnamon Oil:

Cinnamon is much more than just a delicious addition to muesli or apple sauce. A Taiwanese study claims that cinnamon oil can eradicate mosquito eggs. Additionally, it can serve as a deterrent for adult mosquitoes, particularly the Asian tiger mosquito.

2. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil: 

It is one of the more well-known natural repellents and has been in use since the 1940s. Eucalyptus oil is a mosquito-repellent component that has been approved by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A 2014 study found that for three hours, a blend of 32 per cent lemon eucalyptus oil offered greater than 95% protection from mosquitoes.

3. Thyme Oil:

Thyme oil is one of the most effective deterrents for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In a 2002 study on animals, 91 per cent of the mice with hairlessness were protected when 5 per cent of thyme oil was administered to their skin. Additionally, you might wish to add thyme leaves to your blaze. According to research, burning thyme leaves provides 85% protection for 60 to 90 minutes.

Preventive measures can also be taken by wearing protective clothing, using mosquito nets and eliminating standing water around your home to reduce mosquito populations.

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