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Icaridin and Saltidin – Questions and Answers

Icaridin (also known as Picaridin) is the common name given to the chemical compound Hydroxyethyl Isobutyl Piperidine Carboxylate. It is an odourless and almost colourless liquid that was developed for use as an insect repellent.

It was developed by the German chemical company Bayer in the 1990s, and hence was given the trade name Bayrepel. The Icaridin business was subsequently spun off by Bayer into a new company, Saltigo (in 2005), and it was given a new trade name – Saltidin. It is a bit confusing, but in summary Icaridin, Picardin, Saltidin and Bayrepel are all the same product – Hydroxyethyl Isobutyl Piperidine Carboxylate (often abbreviated to Piperidine or Piperidine Caroxylate in ingredient lists).

Icaridin works in the same way as DEET – it blocks the insect’s olfactory receptors for a volatile substance that is contained in human sweat and breath. In other words, it ‘blinds’ the insect’s sense of smell to the presence of humans and makes it difficult for them to find you.

Icaridin is said to as good as or even better than DEET in like for like applications up to a concentration of about 30%. Above 30% the situation isn’t quite so clear, and hence some authorities still recommend the use of DEET in higher concentrations in high risk environments where insect bourne disease is a real threat.

Generally, Icaridin works very well with all the insects that are trying to find you so that they can bite you and feed off you – mosquitoes, midges, sand flies, biting flies and fleas, etc. It is said to be more effective against midges than DEET and it is also effective against ticks, chiggers and leeches, although it needs to be reapplied more frequently than it does for flying insects to remain effective.

It doesn’t work very well with spiders and stinging insects – bees, wasps and hornets, etc. Fortunately though these insects don’t usually come looking for you to deliberately bite or sting you – they will only attack if they feel threatened in some way, so the best strategy is try and avoid them and keep out of their way. Similarly, Icaridin won’t actually repel ants either (because they’re not actively looking for you in the first place) but if they do happen to come into contact with Icaridin it won’t do them much good!

Icaridin has been classified by the US authorities as being in Category 3 (the second lowest of 4 categories) via the oral route and in Category 4 (the lowest category) for eye and skin irritation. This means that it is classified as ‘slightly toxic’ via the oral route and ‘practically non-toxic’ with regard to eye and skin irritation.

In general – yes – if it is used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions – and it is safer to use than DEET. However – as with all chemicals – there will always be a very small minority of people who may react to it in some way. Generally, manufacturers advise that it shouldn’t be used on broken skin and it would be sensible to wash it off when no longer required. It is said to be suitable for use by anyone over the age of 2.

Generally, manufacturers are wary about recommending anything for use with children under the age of 2 and the same is true of Icaridin. However – if in doubt, consult your doctor. In some situations it may be preferable on balance to use Icaridin, rather than run the risk of getting bitten.

In general – yes. Typically the sunscreen should be applied first with the insect repellent on top, so that the sunscreen doesn’t mask the effect of the insect repellent. Remember though that it may be necessary to reapply the sunscreen more often than the insect repellent, and hence you may then need to apply more insect repellent as well.

Icaridin is a moderate chemical pesticide so it may have some effect, but this will diminish very rapidly as it is diluted and it is not thought to bioaccumulate.

Final thoughts:

The best way to avoid getting bitten is to cover up – so Icaridin should be used in combination with other measures to increase the overall level of protection – long sleeves and trousers during the day time, mosquito nets at night time, and the treatment of clothes and fabrics with a contact insecticide, such as permethrin.

To shop the range, please see Alternatives to DEET.