A number of things will help keep these little critters away from you. Wood smoke works fine, but only if you’re sat in a cloud of it… watering eyes, a running nose and choking isn’t my idea of relaxation. There’s no shortage of wearable mosquito netting, hats and so on, but they’re not for me. I want to smoke a fag, eat and have a drink without navigating a netting yashmak. A decent repellent becomes a necessity.
So what are your choices? Deet is a chemical insecticide which is perhaps the most common mosquito and midge repellent, but there are alternatives.
Avon Skin So Soft
An alternative to Deet is Avon’s Skin So Soft product. I know many locals in Cumbria who swear by it as a midge repellent (and the midges here are evil, similar to the ones found in Scotland which can creep through all bar noseeum netting making a holiday misery).
A study has compared Deet (in concentrations of 95%) with Skin So Soft Bath Oil and a placebo. Skin So Soft did remarkably well, being 85% as effective as a highly concentrated Deet solution which was more concentrated than many commercially available insect repellents.
Now a word of caution as not all Skin So Soft products are the same or contain the same ingredients. I’ve been struggling myself to find which UK Skin So Soft product is the ‘miracle one’ since UK advertising regulations stop the company advertising the product as an insect repellent (while in the US, they have it proudly emblazoned on their bottles).
Is it the formula? I know products with citronella or picaridin are likely to be more effective, but finally the Royal Marines came to my rescue. An article in The Scotsman names the product of choice among our battle hardened finest who use it to protect themselves from Scottish midges while guarding our nuclear fleet at Faslane. A Royal Navy spokesman at HMS Clyde, near Helensburgh, said: “It’s not official kit but nothing works better and the Marines are buying it themselves because the midges are so bad up there.” It it’s good enough for them…
If you don’t have a handy Avon Lady to buy from, I can recommend one. Her name is Avril and follow the link to her online store and the product favoured by the Marines (and my Cumbrian friends):
Avril’s Cumbria based but supplies nationally via her site. She supplied my colleagues for 15 years with ne’er a complaint so I’m confident to give a recommendation.
If you’re walking in Scotland or other parts of the British Isles and you’ve forgotten to take a repellent with you, watch out for the plant bog myrtle (a traditional midge repellent). It’s a shrub which can grow up to two metres tall. Bog myrtle can also be bought as an essential oil. Be aware that it can cause skin irritation for some people.
Remember, just because something is a ‘natural’ repellent rather than a man made one doesn’t mean it’s safe. They’re all chemically based, and arsenic is a natural substance found in apple seeds!
Deet is an insecticide applied to the skin. Scary? Only if you’re somewhat gullible and follow Facebook wall posts, believing them to be scientific. Deet is generally quite safe to use, has been subject to numerous studies, and while reactions are possible, they’re extremely rare. Peanuts are more dangerous. A study in Thailand into the effects of Deet on babies born to pregnant women found no health risks (you can see the study here). Doctors recommend the use of Deet as it’s highly effective repellent. You’ll find one or two studies which raise concerns that a small number of deaths or neurological reactions may be due to Deet, but this has to be weighed against the approximate 200,000,000 people using Deet each year and 8billion applications since the 1950s.
In 2014, the US Environment Protection Agency conducted a review of Deet use and health risks. It found that a third of the population of the United States use products containing Deet, and concluded it does not present a health risk to adults or children.
A reaction is possible, but very rare. Use it sensibly:
- Do not spray or apply to cuts;
- Do not spray on the hands or around the mouths of young children;
- Do not spray in enclosed areas and avoid inhaling;
- Keep the bottle out of reach of young children;
- Do not spray on plastic or synthetic material (as it can melt it).
Products using Deet include Jungle Juice, a very popular midge repellent. The one linked contains 50% Deet.