Plug in mosquito repellents, insect repellent bands and mosquito coils are alternatives to insect repellent sprays and lotions, and avoid the need to put repellents directly on your skin.
A plug-in mosquito repellent works by slowly releasing odourless insecticide vapour. The vapour kills mosquitoes, midges, gnats and other biting insects that are lurking in your room. The repellent simply plugs into the mains plug socket and heat begins to diffuse the insecticide vapours immediately.
Insect repellent diffuser units require either insecticide impregnated tablets slotted inside, or attachable liquid bottles (some plug-ins are dual function and can use both). Tablet units must be fitted with a new tablet each night – one tablet is effective for about eight hours. A 35ml liquid bottle offers around 40 nights protection, after which time it must be replaced.
Plug-ins are suitable for use in countries with narrow round two-pin style electrical sockets, 110v-240v (most of Europe’s travel destinations), but can also be used in the UK and other countries worldwide with an appropriate adapter. USA style flat two-pin insect repellent plugs are also available.
For use indoors only, one plug per average sized room (about 30 cubic metres) is sufficient to clear the room of mosquitoes. Activate the repellent unit in before you go out for the evening (or about two hours before bedtime) and when you return, your room will be free from insects. You won’t have to lay awake at night fearfully listening for the high-pitched whine of mozzies with the covers pulled to your chin.
Are Plug-In Insect Repellents Safe?
The active ingredient in plug in insect repellents is a very small amount of prallethrin, which is a type of pyrethroid insecticide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there is no indication that current uses of pyrethroids are harmful to adults or children.
General safety advice for plug in bug repellents includes washing hands after handling, and keeping repellents away from children, animals and food. The vapours from mosquito plug-ins may be harmful to fish, so keep fish tanks covered or remove fish from the room. Dispose of partially used tablets and liquid safely. Look for plug in mosquito repellents from trusted brands such as Jungle Formula, Design Go and Lifesystems.
Mosquito Wrist Bands
A mosquito band contains micro-encapsulated insect repellent that is released when the band is stretched by natural body movement. Worn around your wrists or ankles, an insect repellent band forms a ‘halo’ of protection around you and claims to provide many hours of protection against biting insects. No liquid chemicals come into contact with your skin, which is an important consideration if you are concerned about skin sensitivities or damage to fabrics.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, Jensen et al. tested the effect of various anti-mosquito products on mozzy landing rates. DEET-impregnated mosquito repellent bands significantly reduced the number of landing mosquitoes compared with untreated controls, but were not as effective as DEET insect repellent applied to the skin.
In conjunction with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Which? UK consumer group tested the effectiveness of mosquito wrist bands. Results showed Design Go Bug Guards offered 82 percent protection against the mozzies (100 percent would be total protection). Design Go Bug Guards were subsequently given a three-star insect repellent rating, providing good protection if worn in areas where there is a low risk of malaria.
Mosi-band Natural Wrist/Ankle Bands offered 68 percent protection against mosquitoes and were given a two-star rating – this means they are not suitable for use in areas where there is a risk of insect-borne diseases. For complete protection against mosquito bites in areas where there is a high risk of malaria, you will still need to apply a good quality topical insect repellent, even if you are wearing one or more mosquito bands.
A mosquito coil is a spiral shaped insect repellent that is lit at the outer end and burns slowly towards its centre. As the coil smoulders, it releases insect repellent and insecticide smoke that repels mozzies and other flying insects.
Mosquito Coils burn for around 6 to 8 hours and are ideal for outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, picnics and barbeques. As mosquitoes are particularly fond of feet, a good tip is to place a lit insect repellent coil down on the ground by your ankles while you are dining outside in the evening.
Mosquito repellent coils are lightweight, compact and easy to use – burning a coil is as simple as lighting a candle. If you don’t want to burn an entire coil or you accidentally break one, you can burn broken pieces instead.
Mosquito coil manufacturers include Lifesystems, Gelert, Coghlans and Highlander, who often supply their coils in multiple packs with a metal stand included. Insect repellent coils are generally very cheap to buy – if you buy some and you don't like them, then you haven’t lost much.
Are Mosquito Coils Safe?
Mosquito coils may help reduce the number of mozzies around you, but they are not proven to be effective against malaria and will not guarantee your safety against insect-transmitted diseases. If you are staying in an area where there is a risk of malaria infection, protect yourself by using a good insect repellent and sleeping under an insecticide-treated mosquito net.
Mosquito coils are made from combustible material covered with insecticide. As noted by Boots WebMD, concerns have been raised about the effects of breathing in insecticide smoke released from coils, and there is the possibility of irritation to eyes and nose.
In an experiment published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers examined emissions from Chinese and Malaysian mosquito coils. Results suggest that burning mosquito coils indoors may produce pollutants harmful to health.
Put your safety first and remember the following points when using insect repellent coils:
- Do not burn mosquito coils indoors. Use them outdoors only and avoid burning them in enclosed spaces
- Do not directly inhale smoke emitted from coil repellents
- Do not buy insect repellent coils abroad; they may contain pesticides or other substances not approved for use in your home country
- Buy mosquito coils from reputable mosquito coil manufacturers before you travel, and never from a dodgy-looking market stall!
Mosquito Coil Holders
A mosquito coil produces ash when it burns, and who wants messy ash on their table? A mosquito coil holder contains holes through which the smoke can escape and collects the ash produced. It also makes the smouldering coil safe for use around children. Mosquito coil holders can be laid flat on a suitable surface or conveniently hung up out of the way.
Gelert's Mozi Coil Holder is made from metal and has decorative heart-shaped holes on the top to allow the insect repellent vapour to escape. The holder has an attached loop allowing it to be hung easily from a door handle or hook on the wall.
Boots WebMD. "Mosquito Coils and Vaporising Mats".
Jensen T, Lampman R, Slamecka MC, Novak RJ. Field efficacy of commercial antimosquito products in Illinois. J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2000;16:148–152.
Liu W, Zhang J, Hashim JH, Jalaludin J, Hashim Z, et al. 2003 Mosquito Coil Emissions and Health Implications. Environ Health Perspect 111(12): doi:10.1289/ehp.6286
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Fact Sheet: Characteristics and Regulatory Status of Spatial Insect Repellents".
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Pyrethroids and Pyrethrins".
Which? "Insect Repellents Compared".