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Permethrin is similar to a naturally occurring chemical called pyrethrum. Pyrethrum was initially derived from the flowers of the daisy Chrysanthemum. The insecticide properties of the flower have been recognized since the 18th century. The synthesized product has been available for over 30 years. It is colourless, odourless and biodegradeable.
Permethrin acts as a “knockdown” insecticide. It is not a repellent. It damages the central nervous system of insects which come into contact with it. It is effective against many insects including mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, bedbugs, chiggers, scabies and flies. Permethrin-treated bednets have been found to significantly reduce malaria rates in children in Africa and the Western Pacific region.
Once opened to the air, the net should be treated every 6 months to retain its potency. Permethrin can also be used to impregnate clothes, tents and window drapes. It adheres well to fabrics like cotton and will remain effective for between 5 and 10 washes. It is not recommended for skin application.