What is the best repellent for pregnant women (icaridine, DEET)?


What is the repellent for?

Lack of basic sanitation, in addition to the humid and hot climate are some of the factors that favor the appearance of mosquitoes, such as Aedes aegypti (transmitter of dengue , chikungunya , zika and urban yellow fever ), Haemagogus and Sabethes (vectors of wild yellow fever ).

According to research carried out by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, mosquitoes come first to be responsible for death in the world, secondly to human beings themselves. About 1 million people die from diseases transmitted by them.

Pregnant women, however, must redouble their care. Diseases like dengue and Zika pose serious problems for the mother and the fetus. Among the measures adopted, there is the use of repellents, which distance mosquitoes from the environment.

How does the repellent act?

Repellents alter the mosquito’s perception by means of a vapor layer up to 4 centimeters above the surface of the skin. The product is not harmful to humans.


Repellents can be classified as contact or space . Contact are those passed or sprayed directly on the skin, preventing the mosquito from approaching and making the bite. They are best suited to defend against mosquitoes that spread disease.

Spatial ones, on the other hand, spread the repellent component in the air, killing or repelling mosquitoes in closed places, such as rooms. It is worth mentioning that space repellents are one of the alternatives to protect against insects. They are not as effective as contact ones and do not replace them.

In general, they can be presented in the form of spirals, sprays, creams or electrics.


Spirals are one of the options for space repellents. They must be burned outdoors and for a short time. It warns of the risk of fire and smoke, which is harmful to humans.


The spray, depending on the choice, can be applied to the skin (contact repellent) or in the environment (space repellent). The practicality of this format is one of its advantages.

People with a lot of hair on their arms and legs or who tend to have more oil on their skin, usually opt for this type.


Some versions of cream have moisturizing action, leaving the skin softer. Another possibility is to join the repellent with the sunscreen. As they are contact repellents, they are among the most used to fight mosquitoes that cause dengue, chikungunya, zika and wild yellow fever.

Electric (plug)

Electric or plug repellents, as they are also known, are in the space category. They can be presented in liquid form or in tablets.

In liquid form, they can guarantee up to 12 hours of protection for at least 30 nights. They release insecticides that keep insects out of the environment. They are most efficient near doors and windows.

The lozenges, in turn, provide the mosquitoes with a 12-hour spill, requiring replacement of the refill after that time.

Active principles

In Brazil, repellents usually present in their formula one of the following active ingredients:

Diethyltoluamide (DEET)

Recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for pregnant women, DEET is the most widely used active ingredient in lotion repellents.

Diethyltoluamide was created by the United States Army in 1946 to protect soldiers in places with many insects, and was used by American citizens in 1957.

The material is colorless and has a slight odor. It can be presented in the form of spray liquids, lotions and sticks, acting against mosquitoes, flies, larvae, fleas and ticks.

Its action interferes in the search for blood, as it hinders the chemical attraction exerted by the mosquito. In a concentration of 10%, its effectiveness is around 2 hours, in those of 20% to 40%, this time increases to 10 hours. In Brazil, DEET-based products generally have a concentration of less than 20%.

Due to the country’s high temperature and humidity, its durability may be shorter, especially when staying in open places for prolonged periods.

Some side effects include skin irritation, allergic reactions, dermatitis (skin inflammation) and, in specific cases, intoxication.


Present in creams and gels, icaridine, also known as hydroxyethyl isobutyl-piperidine carboxylate or picaridin, causes disorder in the insect’s olfactory system. It repels mosquitoes (transmitters of dengue, chikungunya, zika virus, malaria , yellow fever, leishmaniasis) and ticks.

The product is colorless, has no smell, leaves the skin with a smooth and non-greasy appearance, in addition to slightly staining the fabrics of the clothes. Skin irritation is milder compared to DEET.

Its formula is more concentrated, about 20% to 25%, which guarantees an efficiency similar to DEET, with protection for a period of 4 to 8 hours. However, its durability is associated with the type of mosquito. Icaridine is effective for 5 hours, with a protection rate of approximately 97% against Aedes aegypti.


IR3535, also called ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate or EBAAP, consists of several substances. The synthetic is indicated for children, being its composition softer and of less concentration.

In a 15% composition, its effectiveness is 4 to 6 hours. However, if the pregnant woman wishes to use it, it is necessary to apply it every 2 hours to ensure its effectiveness.

Pregnant can use?

Yes , pregnant women can use repellent. According to the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), there are no contraindications for pregnant women, as long as the products are registered with the agency and the instructions for use are followed correctly.

DEET-based repellents are the most recommended for pregnant women. This is because the product does not harm the fetus or the mother, in addition to protecting against other animals (flies, larvae, fleas and ticks). Another important factor is its protection time, which is longer compared to other active ingredients.

Importance of repellent for pregnant women

Mosquitoes have a good sense of direction when it comes to the search for blood. They are able to identify the body temperature of the human being, the exhalation of lactic acid (which helps to peel the skin) through sweat and the carbon dioxide released when we release the air.

Pregnant women are more susceptible to the mosquito because in this period their body undergoes a small increase in temperature, about 0.7 degrees. Another factor is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted: 21% more than other people. Therefore, the importance of protecting pregnant women against insects, especially those that transmit diseases.

How to use

Before starting to protect yourself against mosquitoes, read the instructions for use contained in the packaging. It establishes the quantity and frequency of product administration.

Anvisa recommends that outlet repellents or spirals should be used in places with great air circulation, 2 meters away from people. In addition, people with asthma and those with respiratory allergies should not be in the same environment.

Other application precautions must be adopted:

  • Apply on the skin 15 minutes after using makeup, moisturizers and sunscreens;
  • Avoid contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth and intimate area);
  • Wash your hands after using it;
  • Before applying cream repellents, moisten the exposed skin with your hands and then apply the contents sparingly, ironing evenly;
  • In spray repellents, check whether there is a need to stir or not. Use the product in slow sweeping motion. When protecting the face, spray first on the hands and then rub on the face;
  • Do not inhale the product in spray;
  • Do not use near food;
  • Wash areas of the body and clothing that contain the product when use is unnecessary;
  • Do not apply the repellent on covered body parts, as this increases the chances of reactions. The application, however, can be done over the clothes, especially when the fabric does not prevent the mosquito from entering;
  • Do not sleep with the product on the skin;
  • Use up to 3 times a day;
  • Keep the repellent out of the reach of children;
  • Read the label to see if there is a risk of igniting. If present, avoid administering the product near open flames or lit cigarettes.

The effectiveness of the product is related to the way it is administered and other conditions, such as:

  • Physical exercises, sweat;
  • Contact with water;
  • Air temperature;
  • The level of attraction of the mosquito, which is variable for each person.


The misuse of repellents can cause intoxication and allergic reactions, which varies according to the sensitivity of each one, concentration, type of repellent and if the skin is injured, which allows the entry of substances.

DEET, for example, can cause skin irritation in people who are not tolerant of its composition and in those who have had contact with the product for a prolonged period. In unusual cases, some statements have reported that DEET has caused disturbances in the central nervous system (confusion or seizures ). Icaridine can irritate the eyes and skin.

In case of allergic reactions, wash the area. If the problem persists, consult the doctor with the product packaging in hand.

Repellent brands and options

To protect herself and her baby from mosquito-borne diseases, future moms have many options on the market. However, before buying, it is important to consult your doctor. Check out some options:

  • Long Duration Off (137mL): 25% DEET, protects for up to 8 hours;
  • Off Family Aerosol (165mL): 15% DEET, protects for up to 6 hours;
  • Off Refresh (100mL): 15% DEET, protects for up to 5 hours;
  • Repelex Active Spray (100mL): 14.55% DEET, protects for up to 2.5 hours;
  • Repelex Aerosol (200mL): 11% DEET, protects for up to 4 hours;
  • Moskitoff Lotion (100mL): 10% DEET, protects for up to 4 hours;
  • Moskitoff Spray (100mL): 10% DEET, protects for up to 4 hours;
  • Off Family Lotion (200mL): 7.79% DEET, protects for up to 2 hours;
  • Off Cosmetic Lotion (117mL): 7.10% DEET, protects for up to 4 hours;
  • Repelex Lotion (200mL): 6.79% DEET, protects for up to 3 hours;
  • Repelex Cosmetic Lotion (100mL): 6.79% DEET, protects for up to 2 hours;
  • Repelex Spray (100mL): 6.79% DEET, protects for up to 3 hours;
  • Off Family Spray (200mL): 6.65% DEET, protects for up to 2 hours;
  • Exposis Spray (200mL): 25% icaridine, protects for up to 10 hours;
  • Exposis Perfume Free Gel (100mL): 20% icaridine, protects for up to 10 hours.

Price and where to find

The price of the repellent varies according to its typology, and can vary on average from 3 reais, when spiraled, to 50 reais, in spray or gel formats. They can be found in drugstore and supermarket chains.

On our price comparison website, Consulta Remédios , it is possible to find several repellent options in online pharmacies across the country, including in the places they deliver in your region.

In addition, repellents are distributed free of charge in Basic Health Units for pregnant women in situations of vulnerability – living in endemic places, being a user of the Unified Health System (SUS), presenting contraindications to the yellow fever vaccine – and registered in the Bolsa Família program .

The sting

Due to their well-developed vision, mosquitoes focus on finer areas of the skin, where they can see the curvature of blood vessels, which favors perforation. Through this contact, the insect infiltrates anticoagulant and anesthetic enzymes in the body, making it difficult to feel the bite.

In body response, itching and swelling appear in the affected area. Common insects, such as mosquitoes and gnats, do not harm the baby or the mother, requiring only washing the place with soap and water.

However, certain insects carry viruses of diseases that are even more dangerous for pregnant women.

Disease-transmitting mosquitoes

Mosquitoes that transmit diseases, such as Aedes aegypti, Haemagogus and Sabethes, require that the infected person has medical monitoring and specific treatment. During the gestational period, the defenses of the woman’s body tend to weaken, worsening the symptoms.

Aedes aegypti

The insect Aedes aegypti is black with white spots on its entire body, measures less than 1 centimeter and has an average living time of 30 days. Its sting occurs during the day.

However, only females transmit disease, since males eat only fruit. Typical of tropical regions, the mosquito proliferates through standing water, and the female can lay 150 to 200 eggs.

He is responsible for transmitting viral diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika and urban Yellow Fever, all of which are harmful to the fetus and the mother.


There are four types of dengue virus: DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4. Symptoms start three days after the bite, for a period of 2 to 7 days.

The person may feel:

  • Sudden high fever (39 to 40 ºC);
  • Headache and around the eyes;
  • Muscle and joint pain;
  • Weakness;
  • Appearance of skin lesions;
  • Itch;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Enjoo;
  • Vomiting;
  • Shudder;
  • Lack of appetite.

In future mothers, the disease can trigger complications such as hemorrhage, seizures and liver failure (suspension of liver function), which can lead to death.

In most cases, the baby is not at risk. However, in more aggravated situations, premature births and fetal irregularities can occur. The transfer of dengue from the mother to the child has already been pointed out in some cases.

Breastfeeding is allowed because colostrum (liquid secretion produced by the mother after delivery) and breast milk contain antibodies that defend the child from the virus.


Chikungunya is a disease caused by the CHIKV virus, of the Togaviridae group. In addition to Aedes aegypti, it can also be transmitted by Aedes albopictus.

The name means “those who fold” and comes from Swahili , a Thai language. The reference is the arched physiognomy of patients in the first epidemic identified in Tanzania, in the 1950s.

Symptoms appear 2 to 12 days after the bite, lasting one week, and may increase to three weeks. In 30% of the occurrences, people do not present them.

The evidence is similar to that of dengue, but in this case the joint pain is continuous:

  • Abrupt high fever;
  • Intense headache;
  • Back pain;
  • Muscle and joint pain (hands, feet, fingers, ankles and wrists);
  • Enjoo;
  • Vomiting;
  • Goosebumps;
  • Red body stains.

Usually, the disease does not pose risks to the baby, but there are cases of spontaneous abortion in situations of contraction at the beginning of pregnancy. Some notes suggest that the child can be contaminated in contact with the mother’s blood during delivery (normal or cesarean).

Newborns with this virus can suffer complications, such as severe infection, difficulty feeding, swelling, skin diseases or seizures.

It is not possible to have Chikungunya more than once. From the first contagion, the person is immune for the rest of his life.


The Zika Virus (ZKV) appeared in Brazil in 2015 and was named after the place of origin where it was first found, in the Zika forest, in Uganda in 1947.

In 80% of cases there are no symptoms. The most common signs are:

  • Low fever;
  • Redness in the eyes;
  • Headache;
  • Mild pain in the joints;
  • Itch;
  • Red spots on the skin.

Some people may also experience body swelling, sore throat , coughing and vomiting. Usually the problem goes away on its own in about 3 to 7 days. Complications are uncommon, but the condition can lead to death.

The Zika virus is very feared by pregnant women, as it can cause microcephaly.

Microcephaly is characterized by congenital malformation of the brain that does not develop normally, making the head and brain smaller compared to other children of the same age and sex.

In 2015 there was an epidemic of microcephaly in the northeast of the country. The Ministry of Health (MS) has attested the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly.

According to the academic journal Cell Host & Microbe , the virus reaches brain cells, important in the construction of bones and skull cartilage.

Urban yellow fever

There has been no record of urban yellow fever in Brazil since 1942. The virus and symptoms are the same as those of wild yellow fever, changing only the vector of transmission.

In this case, the Aedes aegypti mosquito bites an infected person and then moves on to another healthy person who is exposed.

The first signs occur 3 to 6 days after the infection:

  • Sudden fever;
  • Severe headaches;
  • Body pain;
  • Chills;
  • Enjoo;
  • Vomiting;
  • Fatigue;
  • Weakness.

According to the Ministry of Health, in most cases, there is improvement in the initial stage of the disease. However, 15% of patients do not show symptoms in the first hours or for a day, progressing to the most severe yellow fever, with 20% to 50% of these people dying.

In these situations, the patient may have:

  • High fever;
  • Jaundice (yellow color of the skin and white of the eyes);
  • Hemorrhage, mainly non-gastrointestinal system;
  • State of shock;
  • Multiple organ failure.

Despite the risks, the yellow fever vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women, but it is possible to carry out a medical consultation and ascertain the pros and cons, according to each situation. The vaccine is contraindicated for women who are breastfeeding babies under 6 months and children under 9 months.

Haemagogus e Sabethes

Haemagogus and Sabethes are transmitters of wild yellow fever. Both are found in woods and riverbanks. In 2016, 761 cases of the disease and 246 people were killed.

Transmission occurs through mosquito bites in contaminated monkeys and, later, in humans.

Other measures to ward off mosquitoes

In addition to the use of repellents to ward off disease-transmitting insects, it is important to take precautions to prevent the emergence of the same.

Eliminate mosquito outbreaks

Do not leave standing water, as this is the means of reproduction of Aedes aegypti. Plant pots and water containers for animals must be changed regularly. A tip is to put sand in the containers of the plants.

Be aware of water accumulation in tires, pipes or gutters. In case of rainwater storage, do not leave for more than a week and do not forget to cover.

Choose clothes correctly

Dark clothes catch the mosquito’s attention. Therefore, invest in light and more comfortable clothes, as the sting can occur over the fabric. Also, wear pants and long – sleeved shirts.

Avoid floral scents

Floral and sweet fragrances tend to attract mosquitoes. The ideal is to use odorless products. However, aromas such as lavender, citronella, lemongrass or cloves can help keep it away.

Use screens and mosquito nets

Placing screens on doors and windows, in addition to mosquito nets on the bed, prevents the mosquito from entering the environment.

Do not go to endemic places

If possible, do not go to regions with outbreaks of diseases related to mosquito transmission, as in the case of Yellow Wild Fever and Zika Virus.

Common questions

Repellent causes birth defects in the fetus?

Every pregnancy has a chance of 3% to 5% of the baby having a congenital problem, that is, birth. This condition is known as fund risk. Few repellents have been analyzed relating their use in pregnant women with problems developed in the fetus.

One of the analyzes pointed out that cases of hypospadias (when the opening of the penis is found at the bottom, not at the tip) occurred more in babies in which mothers passed repellents at the beginning of pregnancy. However, this study did not prove that repellents were the cause of the anomaly.

In the second half of pregnancy, 449 women observed daily use of DEET. No congenital anomalies or problems in the children’s development were noticed until their first year.

The other types of repellents have not been checked. However, because they have low toxicity, it is understood that blood absorption would occur in an insufficient way to cause some type of disorder, if properly administered.

Is using repellents for breastfeeding allowed?

There is little research on the use of repellents while breastfeeding. However, one should evaluate the advantages of applying them, since mosquito-borne diseases can cause serious damage to the baby and the mother.

The precautions when using the products must be the same as those followed during pregnancy. However, the woman must be careful not to pass the repellent on the nipple site, so that the child does not have contact through suction.

What happens when DEET is absorbed into the skin?

When applied, a small portion (about less than 10%) of DEET can be absorbed by the body and fall into the bloodstream.

According to studies, the absorption of DEET in the skin occurs in greater quantities when the application is made together with alcohol or when alcohol is ingested. Sunscreens with DEET also increase skin infiltration.

The component can be detected in the bloodstream up to 12 hours after administration. Inside the body, DEET is integrated by the liver and expelled through the urine within 24 hours. In cases of high absorption, intoxication can occur.

What happens to DEET in the environment?

In contact with the soil, the substance can be fragmented by bacteria and fungi. Most of the time, the product is incorporated to the surface, but it can migrate to other soils. In water, it does not dilute easily.

Due to its widespread use, DEET can be found in wastewater (water discarded by industry, commerce, homes and plantations) and in passageways such as sewers and plumbing.

In the air, like fog or vapor, it is decomposed in the atmosphere. The period for this to occur is subject to temperature, humidity and wind.

Repellents are great allies in the fight against mosquitoes that transmit diseases. Future mothers should redouble their care, because in addition to taking more risks, babies can also be affected.

Consult your doctor and see which repellent is right for you. Be sure to share the post!