Thanks for the notice and thanks to Paul for the link. What a disturbing
but well done piece!
I've got a few suggestions on insect repellants that I thought I'd pass
along to anyone that hasn't been as paranoid about bugs as me. As it turns
out, there's a lot of research on what works and what doesn't for ticks and
mossies. The US Army and ADF have done projects together since both deploy
troops into areas with horrific insect-born disease. Off the top of my head:
* Yes, the US Army and ADF managed to invent a 100% effective insect
repellant system, when applied. When applied. So horrible that people
weren't compliant. It doesn't work if you don't use it...which is why I
like Picaradin rather than DEET.
* DEET is effective against mossies, not so much for ticks. It's also
greasy, nasty, and tends to melt plastics. Not ideal for birders.
* Picaradin (available here in Aus - look for no mention of DEET on the
front and 'goes on like water' as a claim. The ingredients list will list
Picaradin.) I love this stuff for mossies! I think I've converted most of
the local bird club to my way of thinking on this. Picaradin doesn't smell
bad, isn't greasy and doesn't seem to melt plastic instantly like DEET. It
works great for mossies. Ticks? I'm not sure.
* Mossies can bite you without you knowing it and ticks can certainly bite
you long before you notice. If you're anything like me, I think of putting
on insect repellant *after* I'm needing it. That's okay when they're an
irritant, not good when they may be carrying something horrible like
Malaria or Dengue. This leads to Permethrin. This chemical is based on a
natural compound but is entirely synthetic, as I understand it. If you
apply it to your skin, it breaks down and does you no good. Instead, you
use it to treat your clothes. An application lasts for many weeks and is
highly effective against mosquitoes and *even more effective against
ticks." Mossies it repels, ticks it kills. The stuff is amazing, you can be
standing in a damp, dark mossie-infested pit/birder's paradise and nothing
lands on you. Magic.
* Permethrin-like chemicals (pyrethroids) in other formulations are built
into clothes and netting as long-lasting insect repellants (That's what's
going on with those five-year mossie nets they distribute and sell in
various locations in Africa.) I've used long-sleeved shirts and pants like
this. Fancy travel brands like ExOfficio (etc.) sell this sort of stuff. I
get the SPF 30+, quick drying ones. Be forewarned: Just add binoculars and
camera to make sure that you blend in with the locals anywhere.
(Cough-cough.) Also, it seems like this stuff makes your sweat smell
horrible in about 15 seconds. I have not found this to be so much the case
when you treat normal clothes with Permethrin. So, the pre-built ones are
more convenient and the repellant properties last long...but treating your
own gives you more flexibility and you still get weeks of coverage.
* Lots of people like botanical repellants of one sort or another. If they
work for you, fantastic. Studies have shown them to be (depending on
compound) ineffective to minimally effective. I like Picaradin (or DEET if
I must) because I don't have to remember to reapply the material very
often. With botanicals that do work a bit, you have to reapply very, very
frequently to keep the bugs away. I'm. Too. Lazy. To be honest, I only get
worked up about all of this when I'm going somewhere with something
horrific like Malaria...then I'm all about getting zero mossie
bites...that's the only way to be sure. (Oh, and for anyone doing Malarial
prophylactics, I encourage you to consider Malarone. Much easier to
tolerate than Doxycycline and you don't have to keep taking it for so long.)
Again, all of that is off the top of my head and I'm sure I've blurred or
messed up some details....but there are a few general impressions and
anecdotal reports from someone that's tried a lot of bug repellants. If
anyone has found other effective tools, please share with the list!
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