How to choose an insect repellent for Zika

With the rising number of Zika hot spots in Singapore, using insect repellent is more important than ever. Buy one that suits your needs with this guide. 

How to choose an insect repellent for Zika

As of noon on Sept. 6, there were 275 cases of Zika in Singapore, following a joint update by the Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency.

A majority of these were detected along the hot spots of Aljunied Crescent, Sims Drive, Paya Lebar Way and Kallang Way.

But the affected area is far larger, with patients coming from all parts of the island nation, stretching from Yishun to Upper Thomson and Bishan.

Zika is carried by the Aedes mosquito and has mild effects on most people. Still, infection during pregnancy could cause microcephaly, where babies are born with small heads, and other brain defects.

What’s important in a repellent?

According to The Straits Times, pharmacists generally recommend products containing Deet. This is because the ingredient is established, safe and great at warding off mosquitoes and other bugs.

Products have varying levels of Deet, that affects their period of effectiveness. For example, a repellent with seven per cent Deet needs to be applied every two hours.

One with 15 per cent of the same ingredient lasts for four hours, said Watsons Singapore pharmacist Clara Lin.

Don’t fret if the repellent contains Picaridin instead. The newer component has proved to work just as well!

The mosquito shield for you

Here’s the good news: Using any bottle of repellent from the shelves is unlikely to cause you harm.

Searching for some tailored advice? Here’s what the Aerinlé team gathered, if you are a…

1) Pregnant woman

Using repellent containing Deet in your second and third trimester is safe, Ms Zoe Kong, principal pharmacist at National University Hospital, told The Straits Times.

Those in the first trimester should avoid direct application on skin, so try spraying repellent on your clothes or handbag.

2) Mother with a baby under two months of age

Use repellent on yourself to make mosquitoes stay away. But do not slather it on your baby, Ms Kong urged. Opt for special netting that will keep the pesky bugs out of prams and cots.

3) Worried Singaporean

Keep calm and take additional precautions such as wearing long-sleeved clothing.

Also, listen to the authorities and remove water from flower pot plates. Clear blockages in drains and empty water storage containers. They are dangerous breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito.

4) Worried Singaporean with no access to repellent

We feel you. Repellent is sold out at many stores including the FairPrice supermarket chain, as Singaporeans reacted to the Zika outbreak.

A recent study by the New Mexico State University may help. A generous spritz of Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume, when applied on a participant’s hand, kept mosquitoes away for two hours, researchers found.

“There was some previous literature that said fruity, floral scents attracted mosquitoes, and to not wear those,” said research assistant Stacy Rodriguez.

“It was interesting to see that the mosquitoes weren’t actually attracted to the person that was wearing the Victoria’s Secret perfume – they were repelled by it,” she said.

Or ask your neighbours and friends if they have repellent to spare! At the end of the day, it takes a collective effort to fight and contain the outbreak.

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