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I'd like to use natural malaria prevention. Insect repellent patch seems to be very promising. One patch contains 75 mg of B1 and covers 36 hours. However, it's not very cheap. Many other travellers recommend doses of B1 vitamin.

  • What dose of eaten B1 (in mg) is enough for protection? (daily)
  • How is it effective compared to the patch?
  • What dose of vitamin B1 (eaten) would be comparable to the 75 mg B1 patch?
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If you are going into (or are in) an area with widespread malaria, I would seriously consider taking some better precautions than B1. If you won't consider deet, mosquito netting may be a good idea. If you're not in malaria country, then it's not as important. –  xpda Feb 12 '12 at 7:58
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Well, @xpda, malaria is all natural, unlike DEET.... –  Russell Steen Feb 13 '12 at 16:57

3 Answers 3

If you want a natural solution, try lemon eucalyptus oil.

Considering that B1 does not deter mosquitos, any dose you like will be comparable to 75mg (zero effect). However, if we wish to assume it works, you'll want the patch. Eating B1 won't help much. Since B1 is principally excreted in your urine, eating a lot of it would only really help if you bathed in your urine afterwards.

New England Journal of medicine

Most alternatives to topically applied repellents have proved to be ineffective. No ingested compound, including garlic and thiamine (vitamin B1), has been found to be capable of repelling

http://www.entomology.wisc.edu/mosquitosite/homeremedy.html

Studies of garlic and vitamin B did not find evidence that these substances could reduce mosquito attraction.

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/are-you-mosquito-magnet?page=2

In the last few years, nonchemical repellents worn as skin patches and containing thiamine (vitamin B1) have arrived in some big-box stores under the name Don’t Bite Me! The science behind this repellent comes from a study done in the 1960s. It showed that thiamine (B1) produces a skin odor female mosquitoes don't like. But no other studies have confirmed thiamine's effectiveness as a mosquito repellent when worn on the skin. Chari Kauffmann, president of the company that sells skin patch called Don’t Bite Me!, says studies on the product are ongoing, though the company has no conclusions to report.

Generally if a study can't be confirmed within 50 years, including by a company trying to profit from it, it's a sign that there was a flaw in that study. In addition multiple studies (My apologies for some of the studies not being public access) have found the counter, which is that is is not effective.

You should also be aware that everything is a poison at some point. In the case of B1, long term dosing (like say, frequently to ward off mosquitoes) of 3g or more could cause harm.

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I appreciate the preference to use natural protection, however, I think it is important to point out that using insect repellent should not be the only method of defence against malaria that you employ. Insect repellent is not 100% effective (*) and does not directly prevent malaria - the mosquito acts as the host to transmit the Plasmodium parasite, which causes malaria. If you are traveling in the Malaria Belt, I would strongly recommend seeking professional medical advice on the use of prophylactic anti-malarial drugs.

Just for fun, historically the natural anti-malarial prophylactic was quinine (occuring naturally in the bark of the cinchona tree) and used to flavour tonic water. Anecdotally, it was consumed with gusto during the reign of the British Empire when gin and tonics were the drink of choice in British colonies in tropical areas to protect against malaria due to the quinine in the tonic water. There are now many more effective anti-malarial drugs.

(*) The product you link only describes its protection as an "almost impenetrable shield" (emphasis mine).

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+1 for the recommendation of anti-malarials –  Russell Steen Feb 13 '12 at 23:35

I traveled in Cambodia with a doctor who has decades of experience in tropical medicine. On his recommendation, our group:

  • Wore long sleeves and pants at all times, despite the heat. We chose the the lightest materials we could find, but kept our skin covered.
  • Soaked those clothes in permetherin before going. After it dries, it continues to repel or kill mosquitoes even after being washed multiple times, and does not smell bad.
  • Put on DEET insect repellent every day, multiple times per day.
  • Took anti-malarial medication starting before the trip and ending after we returned.
  • Slept under mosquito nets.

Are there "natural" preventatives? I don't know. However, consider this:

  • If there were effective natural preventatives, wouldn't native people have discovered them by now? Why do epidemics continue?
  • What makes you think a natural substance would be better? Snake venom and poison ivy oil are natural and artificial sweeteners are synthetic; which would you rather be exposed to? For that matter, malaria is natural.

I sympathize with your desire not to expose yourself to more chemicals than necessary. But in this matter, please be careful. Use whatever works best to avoid malaria.

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Also: it may not prevent malaria, but if you can get one of those bug zappers shaped like a tennis racket, it's extremely satisfying to send a cloud of mosquitos to a thoroughly unnatural, smoking death. –  Nathan Long Feb 14 '12 at 4:28
    
May be worth mentioning that besides long sleeves & pants there are also certain fabrics which are tested to prevent moquito's penetrating it. In my experience these are usually not the lightest though. Some types of mosquitoes will sting you right through your cloths if thin enough. –  Sdry May 2 '13 at 14:26
    
Strongly support the permetherin option. it even stays effective after washing the clothing. I put it on my clothing & gear, and it tends to control the mosquitoes so well, that I don't even have to use deet. –  Tom Collins Oct 10 '13 at 18:15

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