Mosquitoes have always found me particularly tasty which is why I always slap on anti-mosi stuff even if we're just chilling out in the back garden. So I was interested to get a press release this morning which announced:
New Topical Skin Patch Launches To Stop Insects In Their Tracks This Summer
‘Relax UK has announced that it will make protecting skin from ravenous mosquitoes and other biting insects easier than ever this summer with the launch of the new Don't Bite Me Patch. Using a natural blend of Vitamin B1 and Aloe Vera, the clear topical patch is applied to the skin and actively deters the unwanted attention of those pesky bugs that just won’t stop biting. No more chemical sprays or sticky lotions, just a simple, easy and discreet adhesive patch that provides up to 36 hours of guaranteed protection.’
Sounds good. But now comes the scary stuff. According to the press release:
‘Natural products are gaining rapid popularity amongst health conscious consumers worldwide. Many conventional products on the market use an array of ingredients that are proven or suspected of being harmful towards the skin.
‘DEET is of particular concern, studies indicating that the toxic oil could be responsible for neurological damage, Gulf War Syndrome and birth defects in baby boys.
‘The Don’t Bite Me Patch is proud to be DEET free and 100% natural. This makes it a safe and non-irritating product that is perfect for sensitive skin types. The formula is also gentle enough to be used on children.’
The trouble is that there is no evidence that Vitamin B1 or aloe vera stop mosquitoes biting – and if you are travelling to countries where maleria is a real risk, using ‘natural products’ could be downright dangerous.
And preying on people’s concerns in this way – especially when it comes to suggesting a link between the anti-mosi sprays you can buy in the supermarket and birth defects – seems pretty underhand to me.
Last year I met insect expert Dr James Logan from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicines who explained that even here in Britain we have more than 30 species of mosquito – and most of them like to dine on us.
Today I asked him about the claims made in the Don't Bite Me Patch press release. He said: 'I have never heard of this product, nor have I ever tested it, However, there is no scientifically published evidence that vitamin B repels mosquitoes. In fact, there is scientific evidence to suggest that it does not work.
‘Aloe vera may have a mild repellent effect, as most essential oils do, but neither aloe vera or vitamin B are recommended as repellents for use against mosquito bites.
‘This point is particularly important to note if you are travelling to a country with mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue. You must use a product which has been scientifically proven to work. The only repellent products that work are those that contain DEET, PMD and picaridin.
‘If you want some protection from mosquito bites in your own back garden in this country, where the mosquitoes do not carry diseases, then use whatever works for you, so long as it is safe to do so. However, bear in mind that we do have ticks in this country that transmit Lyme Disease, so a good repellent containing DEET or PMD should be used.
‘The claim that DEET is unsafe is simply untrue if it is used appropriately and according to label guidelines. DEET has an incredibly good safety record and it has been around for at least 60 years. There are around 500 million applications of DEET to the skin every year. If it was a big problem, we would know about it by now.
'DEET should be recommended for travellers to countries where there is a risk of mosquito-borne disease.'
Despite these wise words, I suspect many of the old wives' tales about what will and what won’t stop mosquitoes biting will persist. Guidelines, published by Public Health England last August, tackled some of the most common. This is what they said:
‘Herbal remedies have not been tested for their ability to prevent or treat malaria.’
‘Electronic buzzers (emitting high frequency sound waves) are completely ineffective as mosquito repellents. Companies selling them have been prosecuted and fined under the UK Trades Descriptions Act … advice is that they should not be used.’
‘There is no evidence that vitamin B1 taken orally repels mosquitoes.’
‘There is no evidence that vitamin B12 taken orally has a repellent effect on mosquitoes.'
‘There is no evidence that garlic taken orally repels mosquitoes.’
‘It is sometimes stated that Marmite® taken orally repels mosquitoes either by giving off a cutaneous odour repellent to mosquitoes or via its vitamin B1 content. There is no evidence that either assertion is true.’
‘There is no evidence that tea tree oil is an effective mosquito repellent.’
‘There is no evidence that proprietary bath oils provide effective protection against mosquito bites.’