Permethrin vs Picaridin

Zika has been a threatening disease for some time now. Its detrimental effects have been recognized in many parts of the world. The primary way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Though it has been established that Zika can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, one bite from an infected mosquito is still the main cause for Zika infections.

Two effective mosquito repellents are permethrin and picaridin. Many people have been using these repellents but which is better? Read on and find out which one suits you and your family the most.


The Purpose of Insect Repellents

Insect repellents ward off bugs. They are effective and safe in preventing insect-borne diseases such as Zika. They are indispensable products in fighting the following mosquito-borne diseases:

  • Encephalitis
  • West Nile virus
  • Dengue fever
  • Zika
  • Malaria

They can also keep away Lyme disease that is transmitted by ticks.

When you use repellents against insects, you prevent skin eruptions and rashes caused by their bites. Mosquitoes, when they bite, cause a distinct skin irritation. This irritation is an allergic reaction to the saliva secreted by the mosquito during its bite. The specialists at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) advise people to use insect repellents to prevent diseases brought about by mosquito bites.

During the 20th century, malaria was erased in the temperate regions by using organophosphate insecticides such as DDT. About 40% of the population in the tropical areas may be subjected to malaria. More than a million died. Up to 500 M malaria cases are reported yearly on a global scale until this very day.

How insect Repellents Work

Humans are very attractive to insects that feed on blood. They attract these insects with their skin odors and breath. The carbon dioxide present in your breath lures the mosquitoes closer to you. Take note that the repellents are only effective when it is used topically (applied on your skin). Repellents have a specific ingredient that makes you unappealing to biting insects. Take note that repellents do not kill insects. If their active ingredients have higher concentrations or percentages, they usually provide prolonged protection.


Proper Way of Applying Insect Repellent

Using insect repellents properly and regularly is very important. You should apply these products whenever you go out. Make sure you cover every exposed area of your skin. It is not recommended for you to apply repellents underneath your clothes. The repellent will seep into the fabric and not evaporate.

Be sure to apply repellent during at dusk and at dawn because this is when mosquitoes bite actively. You should follow the instructions carefully. Once you return indoors, wash your skin with soap and water. Remember not to apply repellents on wounded skin. Also avoid spraying repellent directly on your facial skin. It is always best to spray your repellent on your hands and then rub it gently around your mouth and eyes.


Select a mosquito repellent that gives you enough protection for as long as you are outdoors. Swimming or sweating decreases the time of the repellent’s effectiveness. This is when you need additional applications. If you have kids, be sure to avoid applying the repellent on their hands, wounds, or around their eyes.


Permethrin Basics

Permethrin is a prescribed medication primarily for treating scabies. Scabies is a skin condition caused by mites that burrow into your skin and lay their eggs. Permethrin is classified as a pyrethrin, immobilizing and exterminating the mites, including their eggs.

Using Topical Permethrin

Permethrin is exclusively for topical use. You should apply this medication right after it is prescribed to you. Coverage of applications should be from your head to the very soles of you feet. Include the fold of your skin, spaces between the toes and your nails. Follow the specific directions given by your doctor. It is ideal to massage the permethrin cream into your skin. Just use the prescribed amount on your skin. Wash the permethrin cream off after eight to fourteen hours. Do so by bathing or showering.

Make sure that you do not get permethrin cream into your vagina, eyes, mouth, or nose. Flush with lots of water if you get some permethrin in your eyes. See your doctor if irritation continues. Even if the scabies in your skin are killed by permethrin, the remains of the mites can still make you experience itchiness for about a month. Tell your doctor about this so that medications to relieve itching may be prescribed to you. Let your doctor know if your skin condition becomes worse two weeks after your treatment.  There might still be more mites left, which equates to more treatment.

Side Effects to Expect

Redness, skin irritation, swelling, and itching may happen with scabies. This may worsen temporarily after the permethrin treatment. You may experience mild stinging or burning. If these worsen, please notify your healthcare provider immediately. Take note that your doctor told you to use permethrin because he or she believes that the benefits outweigh the adverse effects. Many patients who use permethrin do not have such serious side effects.

It is rare for serious allergic reactions to occur while using this medication. If you do experience difficulty in breathing, severe dizziness, itching, swelling, and rashes, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical attention.

Necessary Precautions

Be sure to inform your healthcare provider if you are allergic to permethrin or any other pharmaceutical compounds before you use permethrin. The inactive ingredients in permethrin may trigger an allergic reaction or other health issues. Talk to your physician about past ailments, especially any skin conditions you may have had.

Take note that intense scratching of the scalp and skin may lead to infection. If pus or redness develops, tell your physician right away.  Inform your doctor, too, if you are pregnant before you use permethrin. It is still unfounded if permethrin passes into the mother’s breast milk, but it has been established not to harm an infant that is still nursing. If you are planning to breast feed your baby after your Zika infection, talk to your doctor first.

Permethrin Interactions

Before using permethrin, make sure you tell your physician all nonprescription and prescription medications or herbal supplements you may be using. Make sure you keep a list of all medications to serve as a reference for your doctor.

Permethrin Overdose

It is very harmful if you swallow this medicine. If you suspect an overdose, contact the emergency room or poison control number immediately.

Applying Permethrin on Clothes

Treating your clothes with permethrin makes insect precautions much more simplified. All you need to do is apply permethrin to your clothes and you can be protected from these little vampires anywhere, at any given time. Permethrin treated clothing is the highest level of protection against mosquitoes and other insects that bite. When you travel, make sure you treat your clothes. It is the secret adventurers have so that they remain safe from Zika and other mosquito borne diseases.


You can either spray your clothes with or soak your clothes in permethrin. Most people prefer soaking their clothes in this repellent. It is usually called military wash.

Here are the basic steps in using permethrin soak:

  1. Choose the clothes you want to treat. It doesn’t matter what type of fiber it has. The most beneficial type of clothing is the one that can be worn several ways. You should also consider clothes that cover a lot of skin. If you choose to wear long sleeves and long pants, then you will only se a small amount of picaridin or DEET on your exposed skin.
  2. Get four to five pieces of clothing and place them on top of the other. Fold in thirds or half cross wise.
  3. Roll up the pieces of clothes and tie them up with a string. For large pieces of clothes like jeans you need to lessen the number of items so that the clothes will fit in the bag that came with the kit. Be mindful when you open the bag. If you open it too eagerly, the zipper may tear. Once you open it, pour in the water and permethrin according to the directions.
  4. Place the clothes into the bag and then swish the solution so that the clothes can soak it up. Leave the soaking clothes away from pets and children for two hours or more. This enables the permethrin to bond with the fibers of your clothes.
  5. Remove the clothes from the plastic bag.  Wear plastic gloves. Hang the clothes to dry. Use plastic hangers. Now your clothes are ready to keep off insects for up to six consecutive washings.



Picaridin Basics

Generally, picaridin repels chiggers, ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. This compound was first synthesized during the eighties. It was designed to imitate an organic compound named piperine—found in plants that produce black pepper. Picaridin has been known as an effective relent in Australia and Europe. It has only been used in the US since 2005.

Products with Picaridin

Picaridin can be applied on clothing or on human skin, so that you can repel fleas, chiggers, mosquitoes, ticks, and biting flies. This product is the available in the form of wipes, aerosols, pump sprays, and liquids. In the US, you can choose from about twelve products that have picaridin as an active ingredient.

Be sure to follow instructions on the label and always follow the steps to avoid exposure. In case of any exposure, follow the directions for First Aid indicated on the label. You also have the option of contacting Poison Control.

How Picaridin Works

As a repellent, picaridin keeps insects from biting you. It blocks the mosquitoes’ ability to sense prey, which includes humans. Remember that this chemical compound does not kill the insects.

How You Might be Exposed to this Compound

Chemical exposure can occur in four different ways:

  • Skin contact
  • Eye contact
  • Ingestion
  • Inhalation

Picaridin is usually applied on your skin. You may inhale picaridin if it is sprayed around your body indoors. If you do not wash your hands after applying picaridin and you handle food or smoke, you may ingest this compound without even knowing it. You should make sure that you read the label and follow the instructions.

Symptoms of Picaridin Exposure

When using products that contain picaridin, some people experience skin irritation, which is highly uncommon. If you get picaridin gets into your eyes, it may cause some irritation. According to researchers, rats lost significant amount of weight. Their kidneys were also affected. Picaridin is nontoxic if you inhale it.

When Picaridin Enters Your Body

During a study, picaridin was applied to the skin of the rats. About sixty percent of the compound was absorbed through the skin. When applied on human skin, six percent of picaridin was absorbed. There is a possibility that picaridin may be degraded once it enters your body. Humans and rats excrete majority of it through their urine within a day’s exposure.

Is Picaridin Carcinogenic?

Scientists did not detect an increase in cancer cell proliferation among the animals in the laboratory after applying picaridin on their skin for two consecutive years. According to the US EPA, picaridin is not carcinogenic. This conclusion is based on the fact the long-term picaridin exposure of mice and rats.

Are Adults Less Sensitive to Picaridin than Children?

Children may be found to be more sensitive to pesticides than adults. Yet, there are no findings that suggest children have specific sensitivity to picaridin.

Effects of Picaridin to the Environment

It has been found that picaridin that seeps into wastewater enter the treatment plants. It is not detected in water that has already been treated. Experts speculate that picaridin will bind to the soil where bacteria can degrade it. Picaridin is not likely to seep into the ground water because of its physical properties and general use.

Does Picaridin Affect Wildlife?

Picaridin is a bit toxic to fish. It can build up slowly in the tissues of some species of fish. Green algae in water that is treated with picaridin did not proliferate as abundantly as the green algae in water not treated with picaridin. Picaridin is not toxic to birds.



Discuss your choice of repellent with your doctor. This will make it easier for you to decide on whether you can use permethrin or picaridin in repelling all biting insects including the Aedes species of mosquitoes that cause Zika.

Leave a Comment