Mosquitoes are responsible for spreading three of the deadliest insect-borne diseases in the world: malaria, dengue and yellow fever. Of these, malaria impacts the most people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 40% of the world’s population is at risk for malaria. Two of the most effective ways to protect oneself against insect-borne diseases are through proper insect repellent use and increased awareness across the globe.
With an abundance of products on the market – such as creams, sprays, patches, coils and natural oils – knowing each product’s ingredients and side effects is essential for maximum protection and safety. Many developing countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, opt for synthetic insect repellent options due to their low-cost and long-lasting power. However, the market for natural insect repellent products is expected to grow significantly as more people seek out eco-friendly, skin-friendly options.
Active Insect Repellent Ingredients and Effects:
- DEET, a chemical designed to repel insects rather than killing them, is used by approximately one-third of the U.S. population. As DEET is proven to cause multiple neurological problems, skin rashes and breathing problems, as well as negatively impact wildlife and aquatic life, many companies have worked to develop natural, DEET-free, alternatives.
- Citronella oil is one ingredient often used in lotions, solid wax and oil mixtures. Often used in indoor candles and outdoor citronella incense diffusers, citronella oil is a natural ingredient derived from the citronella plant. However, it does not provide maximum protection as it has shorting lasting power than other insect repellent products and does not protect against Asian tiger mosquitos, flies, fleas or ticks.
- Lemon eucalyptus oil is a natural alternative to DEET and has even been proven just as effective. While companies like Natural Citizen have developed products using the oil, they are not safe for children under the age of three.
- Cedar leaf, lemongrass and peppermint oils are other commonly used ingredients in natural insect repellent products. Products that incorporate these oils are deemed eco-friendly and are tolerable for those with sensitive skin.
- Dried pyrethrum powder paste is the main active ingredient used in insect repellent coils. Insect repellent coils are often used in Asia-Pacific countries, as it is a low-cost option for combating insect-borne diseases. Insect repellent coils are rarely used in developed countries, as they pose safety issues such as fire hazards.
- Picaridin is a synthetic ingredient used in many insect repellent creams and patches. It is also used in sprays, such as “Sawyer Insect Repellent.” Picardan is widely recognized as an odorless ingredient that is as effective against mosquitos, ticks and fleas as DEET.
- IR3535 is another synthetic ingredient that has been used in insect repellents across Europe for 20 years with no major adverse effects. It is known as a positive alternative to DEET, as it provides protection for about eight hours with a 20% concentration.
Fueling the use of both natural and synthetic insect repellent products is the push for greater awareness of insect-borne diseases. As diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, West Nile virus, lyme disease, chikungunya and Zika virus have spread across mainly developing countries, educational efforts and funding have significantly increased.
The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) is one of the major organizations distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets to developing countries. Government funding has also aided in insect repellent distribution, in addition to spreading awareness of insect-borne diseases.
With a focus on health awareness across developing – and developed – education systems, more people are becoming aware of the prevalence and detrimental effects of insect-borne diseases. Fueling this educational advancement is the increased global literacy rate, especially in low-middle income regions. According to the World Bank, the global literacy rate rose from 84.6% in 2010 to 86.3% in 2016.
Furthering the push for insect-borne disease reduction are the many government programs, seminars, advertisements and literature related to the topic. Additionally, healthcare professionals are investing in insect repellent usage training, and many companies are providing their employees with critical information related to insect-borne diseases.
As a result of this increased awareness, along with the multitude of natural insect repellent products on the market, more people are able to make safe decisions regarding insect repellent use and protection. However, combating insect-borne diseases is a process that nations across the globe must consistently make a priority in order to support a healthy, well-informed population.
For more information on the global market for insect repellents, refer to the report “Insect Repellents: Global Markets Through 2023.”