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Mosquito Avoidance Tips

Mosquito bites are a common problem for travellers. At best, they are merely irritating as their bites can be very itchy or sore. Scratching mosquito bites can result in marking of the skin, and potentially more permanent scarring. However, in certain parts of the world mosquitoes are carriers of serious diseases. It is important to know the risks when travelling to a new destination and take appropriate precautions.

 

Mosquito-borne diseases

Malaria

Malaria is a disease spread by female mosquitoes and is prevalent in many areas across the globe. Its severity differs from region to region and in some cases can be fatal. If travelling to a malaria zone, you are advised to take antimalarial medication as a precaution. You can read about malaria and types of antimalarials here.

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a serious viral infection found in parts of Africa, South America and the Caribbean. It is carried by mosquitoes and in severe cases can lead to jaundice, kidney failure and death. You can be vaccinated against yellow fever before travel to high risk areas.

Dengue Fever

Dengue is a viral infection found in many parts of the world. Most cases are mild and pass in about a week, but in rare cases it can be life threatening. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for dengue, so it is important to avoid being bitten by mosquitos if travelling to an area where it is known to be prevalent.

Japanese Encephalitis

Japanese Encephalitis is a viral brain infection spread from animals to humans via mosquitos. It is most common in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Far East. Travellers can be vaccinated prior to their trip, but should take precautions against mosquito bites to further reduce their risk of contracting the virus.

West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is very rarely found in UK travellers. It is similar to Japanese encephalitis and found in Australia, parts of Europe and the USA. Like dengue, there is no specific treatment or preventative for West Nile Virus other than to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

 

Avoiding mosquito bites

Choose Appropriate Accommodation

Mosquitos breed more in damp and dark places, so try to stay somewhere with air-conditioning and plenty of sunlight and ventilation. You should also avoid staying near areas that mosquitoes tend to populate, such as stagnant water sources like ponds, lakes or storm drains.

Cover Up

While it is tempting to wear short and sleeveless clothing when visiting warm, humid climates, it is in these conditions that mosquitoes prefer to breed. It is worth covering your skin as much as possible, particularly if the area is a known malaria hotspot. It is vitally important to cover up during dusk and night, as mosquitoes love to feed in the evening. You’ll notice the numbers of mosquitoes increase as the sun sets, and it may be worth staying indoors during these hours.

Apply Insect Repellent

Applying an insect repellent to your skin is the best way to avoid mosquito bites. Ideally, you should buy one containing 50% DEET concentration, but you can buy stronger concentrations if travelling to an area where the mosquitos are particularly determined. Your pharmacist can help you choose which to buy, and application instructions can be found on the label. It is important to wear repellent even at night and to reapply after washing.

Use a Mosquito Net

You can buy mosquito nets to hang over your bed while you sleep. The best ones are also impregnated with mosquito repellent. The net should be long enough to reach the floor and be tucked under your mattress. Make sure to check your net for holes or tears before use.

Use Insect Repellents in Your Accommodation

These come in many forms. You can use an air spray in your room before you sleep, or mosquito killing coils which you burn. There are also electric humidifiers which can be plugged into the wall and mats which keep mosquitoes out.

What about Natural Remedies?

There is no evidence to support rumours that garlic or vitamin B work to protect against mosquitoes. Herbal repellents such as citronella oil have been proven to repel mosquitoes, but require frequent application which is impractical for most travellers.

 

Low risk areas

Malaria is by far the most common mosquito-borne disease. While mosquito avoidance is always recommended, you are not likely to need malaria medication when visiting the following countries:

Belize, Bhuan, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Western Sahara.

Some areas of countries may also be higher risk than others and mosquito avoidance may be adequate for certain areas of:

Burma, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Madagascar, México, Namibia, Nicaragua, Suriname, Thailand, Vietnam.

Speak to a doctor, or use the CDC guidelines to see if you need antimalarials for the areas you are visiting. Click here for a full list of areas with high risk of malaria or click here to see a map showing you which antimalarials work best in each area.

 

Sources

NHS Fit for Travel - Mosquito Bite Avoidance: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/malaria/mosquito-bite-avoidance

NHS Dengue: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/

NHS Yellow Fever: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/yellow-fever/

NHS Jap Encephalitis: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/japanese-encephalitis/

NHS West Nile Virus: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/west-nile-virus/

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