In the Philippines, mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue, malaria, chikungunya, and Japanese encephalitis, are a burden to public health with dengue taking the lives of many each year. Prevention is crucial and necessary. But, should you put your trust in mosquito patches? Researchers are saying not so fast. It may still be best to go for insect repellent lotions.
Taking from data from 2010 to 2014, on average, the Philippines sees more than 170,000 dengue cases and 750 deaths due to dengue annually, according to the Department of Health (DOH). Kids are most at risk with the most affected group in the age range of 10 to 14 years old, adds the health agency.
“Dati sa Pilipinas, seasonal ang occurrence ng dengue. Tag-ulan at tag-baha, doon lang ang rise in cases. Now, all year round meron tayong dengue,” says pediatrician Dr. Carmina Delos Reyes, an infectious disease specialist and a fellow of the Philippine Pediatric Society.
The DOH advocates forpreventive measures against mosquito-borne diseases through vector control — stopping the breeding of mosquitos by cleaning up areas where stagnant water pools — and self-protection strategies such as dressing your child in long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Apart from insect repellent lotions, parents are also turning to mosquito patches — colorful stickers designed to be placed on a child’s clothing — which will supposedly repel mosquitos. They’re easier to take along and more convenient to apply than topical products. But, do they work as well? It’s likely they don’t, say experts and researchers, so it’s probably best to stick with topical products like mosquito repellent lotions.
“It’s a hassle applying topical repellents, especially to children. There is also often a misplaced perception that ‘chemical repellents’ are a health risk,” says Cameron Webb, a clinical lecturer and principal hospital scientist at the University of Sydney, in an article for The Conversation.
Hence, insect patches, wristbands, and bracelets became a popular alternative. These are “infused with botanical products such as citronella or peppermint oil. The vapor released purportedly keeps mosquitoes away,” says Webb. “While slipping on a wristband or sticking on a patch may be an attractive alternative, when tested, they’re typically shown to be the least effective of the commercially available repellents.”
Research has shown that though the vapors can repel mosquitos, it isn’t enough to provide full protection. “You need full coverage,” explains Webb. “One detailed study using wristbands infused with botanical extracts found there was a reduction in biting mosquitoes, but only for a few centimeters either side of the band. Wearing a wristband won’t provide ‘whole body’ protection.”
As reported by NPR, mosquito patches containing vitamin B1 and citronella candles were shown by research to be ineffective as well. “Not all products deliver what they promise,” says Susan Brink from the NPR.
Insect repellent lotions often contain the active ingredients DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil. They are proven safe and effective and are recommended by the CDC and the AAP. They're also widely available in stores.
“DEET is the standard,” says Dr. Mustapha Debboun, director of the mosquito control division of Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services in the U.S., to NPR. “All the repellents being tested are tested to see if they beat DEET.”
What to remember when using insect repellent for your child:
Always read and follow the application instructions on the packaging.
Insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months old.
Mosquito repellents that have lemon eucalyptus oil should not be used on children 3 years old and below
Check if the product is FDA-approved. You can do this by looking for the “HSR No.” printed on the packaging or typing the product brand name in the search bar of the FDA website.
Your repellent should contain no more than 30% DEET when used on your child.
Let an adult apply the product on your child. “Use just enough repellent to cover your child’s clothing and exposed skin. Using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective,” says the AAP.
If you’re using a new mosquito repellent for the first time, do a skin test first to avoid major allergic reactions. Immediately stop using the product if you notice itching, swelling or rashes.
Find SmartParenting.com.ph's mosquito repellent guide (how to use and pick the right one) here and a list of products containing the proven effective active ingredients mentioned above here.