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Bite-free breaks

Why buying effective, natural insect repellent is now a must before you travel
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Multi-ethnic group of children lying in a pile in a park

This article first appeared in our Earth Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 22 April 2024. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Howard Carter contracted malaria in India whilst taking anti-malarials and using a Deet-based insect repellent. He celebrated his recovery with a trip to Thailand, where he promptly contracted dengue fever.

As with many mosquito-borne diseases, the best cure for dengue is prevention – so Howard was inspired, from his now-familiar bed in London’s Hospital for Tropical Diseases, to develop a repellent that offered real protection without harming the environment.

17 years after launching incognito®’s signature insect repellent spray, Howard remains as committed to the cause as ever – not least because of the new risks that come with a changing climate, and the fact he feels Brits have a more relaxed attitude towards the risks of insect-borne diseases – in the UK as well as in Europ and the tropics.

‘For kids and people who enjoy the outdoors, ticks in the UK are a real concern’, Howard tells us, ‘yet in the UK many people don’t really view insects as a threat. In Germany no self-respecting parent lets their kids play in long grass and bushes without protection. Tick awareness is huge; it’s drummed into kids from the start.’

Howard has also noticed that, compared with our European neighbours, Brits tend to have a much more laissez faire attitude around insect protection while abroad.

‘The vast majority do not buy their repellents before travelling’, Howard says. ‘Once at their destination they discover options are limited, costly and most likely either ineffective or Deet-based. We all need to buy before we fly if we want to protect ourselves and the environment in the most effective way.’

What makes insects bite?

The carbon dioxide we exhale, bacteria from old skin cells and even perfumed soaps are all things that can attract mosquitoes and other biting insects; Howard’s philosophy, and the logic that underpins incognito products, is that insects that can’t find you can’t bite you.

Incognito is an all-natural, certified-organic formulation that, when applied every four hours, creates a ‘bubble’ to make people undetectable to insects.

A multi-step regime will offer extra protection: use the loofah with the natural, unperfumed soap to get rid of old skin, then apply sunscreen insect repellent to protect against the dengue-carrying mosquitoes that fly by day. The spray should be applied last.

To ensure that you are covered everywhere, incognito has launched a new bracelet with a slow-release capsule containing incognito’s unique blend of essential oils, which creates an aroma that insects dislike.

The bracelet is made from carbon-capturing sustainable wood and is a one-time purchase; the capsule must be replaced every 18 days.

‘With the best will in the world, everyone forgets to put on their insect repellent sometimes – and the bracelet can be used in conjunction with incognito lotion, spray, roll-on or sunblock for enhanced levels of protection’, Howard tells us. ‘All these actions together make you invisible; the bracelet should be considered for anyone over the age of three.’

For younger children, incognito has also launched a new Kids formulation specifically for kids’ sensitive skin. ‘We wanted to ensure that all family members are equally covered’, Howard explains.

Naturally effective

Incognito contains the strongest form of the PMD active – the only natural insect repellant active recommended by the CDC (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the US public health agency), the NHS, WHO, travel clinics and pharmacists for use anywhere in the world, including areas with mosquito-borne diseases.

The PMD undergoes a proprietary process which ensures Deet-level efficacy, while still using 100% natural ingredients. It’s also effective against a larger range of insects than Deet, and offers a natural alternative to anyone concerned about the potential health and environmental impacts of synthetic repellents.

A new lifestyle

Due to our changing climate, Europe is now at risk of diseases such as dengue fever, which was previously restricted to tropical destinations.

Italy has had several outbreaks already this year, and took the unprecedented step of fumigating Rome’s international airport in a bid to break the cycle.

The UK has around 20 endemic species of tick, and their populations are on the rise. They can carry a range of microorganisms, some of which may cause disease in humans.

‘Milder weather and milder winters due to climate change are making the UK a better place for insects’, Howard tells us. ‘This means insects we associate more with Europe, such as ticks and mosquitoes, will arrive in the UK. As a country we need to become much more aware of the risks and not assume there is nothing to worry about; ticks have been a major health concern for some time in the likes of Germany, Poland and other countries in Central Europe, yet there is limited awareness of the increasing risk in the UK.’

Using insect repellent such as incognito should become second nature, especially for kids. ‘Apart from being natural, incognito has a pleasant aroma and is not sticky or greasy’, Howard explains, ‘so there’s no real deterrent to using it daily – from a UK BBQ to the tropics – as required!’

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