/ Health, Travel & Leisure

Does a garlic tablet a day keep mosquitoes away?

As Which? Travel reports on the best inspect repellents, I’m wondering if dedicated products are the only way to keep mosquitoes at bay? From garlic tablets to baby oil, we’ve heard many alternative repellent tips.

When deciding which insect repellents to send to the lab for our experts to test, we consider a number of factors including brand leaders, best selling products and DEET and DEET-free products.

Our tests are focussed on finding the best performing dedicated repellents, designed to deter and prevent insects (in our case mosquitoes) from biting.

DEET vs DEET-free products?

Although in our test DEET products generally lasted longer and resulted in fewer bites, this wasn’t always the case. We were a little surprised to find that during our testing some DEET-free products actually performed better than those that contained DEET.

But while carrying out our initial background research we found some even wackier ideas. It became clear that whether you’re planning a family camping trip in France or a beach break in Barbados, not everyone turns to the more conventional mosquito repellents in the local supermarket or pharmacy.

There are plenty of alternative views on what repels mosquitoes best – but are any of these proven to work or is their performance merely based on old wives tales or simple coincidences?

Baby oil and brewers yeast

While it’s essential to speak with your doctor about the most suitable anti-malaria tablets if you are travelling to a high-risk area, for lower-risk areas these repellent alternatives, as wacky as some may seem. We’d always recommend that you use something that’s been tried and tested as opposed to something based on untested home remedies, so we can’t vouch for any of the suggestions, but they do make for interesting reading.

Head online and you’ll find plenty of people willing to share their thoughts on the best products for stopping bites. How you smell and how much you sweat can both impact on the effectiveness of a dedicated insect repellent, so it’s no wonder that many of the alternative suggestions also focus on masking or giving off a different odour.

Suggestions include talking garlic tablets (apparently they don’t taste of garlic!), covering yourself with baby oil (not sure how well this combines with sunshine) and eating Marmite! One suggestion even included taking brewers yeast tablets – although as one of my friends asked, ‘could you just drink beer instead?’

The stories that accompany the suggestions talk of minimal mosquito bites and of transformations from previously disastrous mosquito bitten holidays to bite free breaks. But do they really work?

We know from our own research that there were big differences between the best and worst performing mosquito repellents, but have you tried any alternatives?

Sophie Gilbert says:
26 July 2012

Slightly different insect, but my old boss used to say about midges that you should drink lots of whisky to repell them. If it didn’t work you wouldn’t notice the bites.

In my experience (Mediterranean, Caribbean, Africa) there are only two things that actually work other than proper insect repellents: a mossie net over the bed and these awful smelling insecticides you plug in at night (I find them suffocating, more so than the heat under the mossie net).

And don’t forget your malaria treatment depending on your destination.

If/when one gets bitten, simply zap the bite INSTANTLY with a Zanza click, the most wonderful invention in the world – and yet nobody seems to know about it. Being highly allergic to bites (as in having to go to hospital in 3 countries) this Italian device, which gives a minute electrical shot has given me the confidence to boldly go where I feared to tread!
It is now availabe from Boots, or online.

andy illston says:
23 October 2012

Have Which considered testing the efficacy of insect repellents against tick bites?

Andy Hardworth says:
24 February 2013

Zanza click is called Zap-Ease in this country and is manufactured by incognito anti-mosquito. You can get it from them or in chemists, although Boots only stock it in a few of their branches in the summer.

It is my experience also, that non-DEET products are stronger and this could explain it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21519998 I remembered your article when this came out. I got eaten alive the last time I used DEET in the Med!

Well done Which for telling it like it is.

Any updates to this for Caribbean travellers.

I have been getting ads for mosquito bands. Does anyone know if they work. My elderly parents live in Hungary which (because of climate change) is now getting more and more dangerous mosquitoes for longer in the year. Any help would be great!