The most effective ingredient in insect repellent is diethyl-metatoluamide, also known as Deet. You can buy repellent with 90% or more of this ingredient; many brands (including those available in Costa Rica) contain less than 15%. I find that the rub-on lotions are the most effective, and pump sprays are good for spraying clothes, especially at the neck, wrist, waist, and ankle openings.
Some people find that Deet is irritating to the skin - they should use lower strength. research indicates that 30% strength works about as well as the stronger stuff, and doctors discourage use of 90% Deet for medical reasons. Everyone should avoid to get Deet in the eyes, on the lips and other sensitive regions. This stuff can dissolve plastic, so keep it off plastic lenses, etc. I know of someone who put plenty of Deet onto his face and forehead, then began sweating and got Deet-laden sweat in his eyes, resulting not only in eye irritation but clouding his plastic contact lenses!
Deet is toxic to children and should not be used on their skin. Instead, try Avon's Skin So Soft, which has insect-repellent properties and is not toxic - get the oil not the lotion. Camping stores sometimes sell insect repellents with names such as 'Green Ban' - these are made with natural products and are not toxic, but I find them less effective than repellents with Deet.
Mosquito spirals (coils) can sometimes be bought in Costa Rica. They work like incense sticks and are faily effective at keeping mosquitoes away.
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Text by Lonely Planet.
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