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‘Tis the sub-Saharan season of the mosquito invasion. Swat at them all you like, but those two-winged Diptera insects never quit. To avoid itchy bites, mosquito repellents on the market containing active ingredients like DEET are common, but there are many comparably efficient natural alternatives available. Here’s our pick of the best.
Ghana is an amazing place to visit, but avoiding contact with malaria-carrying mosquitoes should be top of your to-do list. Female mosquitoes are the ones that bite since they require blood every three to four days in order to produce eggs. Female Anopheles mosquitoes are responsible for transferring the malaria parasite, and are the most common in Ghana. The global malaria elimination program classification considers Ghana and most parts of West Africa as control phase zones, with the prevalence of parasites changing with the seasons.
To select an appropriate mosquito repellent, be sure to check the duration of the product’s potency, and whether it’s chemical or natural. Synthetic/chemical mosquito repellents contain DEET or Picaridin, and offer protection in heavy mosquito-infested spaces. However, chemical products are not recommended for use on children under two months. Even with children below the age of 12, DEET-containing products should be applied sparingly. In areas which are less densely infested, you can protect yourself with natural repellents made from an array of ingredients, including the following:
Though its potency lags a bit behind that of DEET, citronella is very efficient in protection against bites. Derived from cymbopogon, better known as lemongrass, citronella oil can be applied directly on the skin, while citronella candles and incense produce smoke that deters mosquitoes.
Traditionally used for cats, catnip oil from the Nepeta cataria plant also repels mosquitoes. It produces nepetalactone, an essential oil that gives the plant its characteristic odour. Catnip oil insect repellents offer mosquito protection for up to seven hours.
Insect repellents with 2-undecanone can offer up to four hours of protection from mosquitoes – the natural compound comes from the leaves and stems of the wild tomato plant, Lycopersicon hirsutum.
The oil of lemon eucalyptus and eucalyptus tree oil are natural treats that work at the level of lower concentration DEET products. Repellents containing eucalytus oil may provide up to two hours of protection.
Many other natural ingredients are currently being examined for mosquito repellent properties. These include: fennel, thyme, clove oil, celery extract, cedar, soyabean, and neem oil.
Interventions such as spraying repellents around the house and mosquito nets draped over beds are practical ways to prevent contact with mosquitoes. Climate-controlled rooms with nets on the windows help with protection, and are also a good idea. Outdoor protection starts with covering up: long sleeves and pants will be your saviour.