Travelling abroad can be the experience of a lifetime, filled with new adventures, different scenery, culture and cuisine — plus some good ol’ rest and relaxation. It does require preparation, however, including taking health precautions against risks that you may not have thought about before now.
If you’re travelling to a destination — or during a season — where the weather will be warm, one threat you may not have considered is the potential for contracting illnesses transmitted through mosquito bites. The role of mosquitoes as vectors of serious pathogens is receiving more attention worldwide, with globalization increasing the spread of life-threatening diseases such as Zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, Chikungunya and malaria.
Dangerous Mosquito Species
Before you take off, do some research on the types of mosquitoes you might encounter, and take the necessary measures to prevent being bitten by one of the following:
Culex Mosquitoes: Small, yellow and plain-looking, these mosquitoes are vectors for West Nile Virus, Japanese (and St. Louis) encephalitis and lymphatic filariasis. They are found worldwide and active at night.
Anopheles Mosquitoes: Carriers of malaria, Anopheles can be distinguished by their resting stance, in which their body is at a 45-degree angle with the surface instead of flat, like most mosquitoes. They are found worldwide (except in Antarctica) and bite between approximately 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Aedes Mosquitoes: The most dangerous type of mosquito in terms of disease transmission (dengue fever, yellow fever, Chikungunya, Zika and others), this mosquito is easily distinguishable by its white-and-black body markings. Aedes are most active in the morning and late afternoon/evening.
Mosquito Bite Avoidance Tips:
To minimize unwanted mosquito encounters on your next trip, here are some tips on how to repel mosquitoes when travelling:
- Cover as much skin as possible with loose, preferably light-colored clothing. Keep in mind also that mosquitoes can bite through thin material. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors, consider treating your clothing and gear (e.g. boots, tents, socks, jackets) with 0.5% permethrin, an insecticide that repels mosquitoes.
- Stay in lodging that has air conditioning, or screens for windows and doors. Many guesthouses with mosquito issues have mosquito nets for lodgers; however, you may want to pack your own to ensure there are no holes in it. If you’re sleeping outside, definitely use a mosquito net, and be sure you use it correctly.
- Apply insect repellent that contains DEET, IR3535, picaridin, 2-Undecanone or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE or PMD) to the skin or clothes.
Mosquito Coils are mosquito-repelling coils typically made from a dried paste of pyrethrum powder. The coil is either secured by a fireproof material or held in place at the center of the spiral, which suspends it in the air so that it can continuously smolder.
Mosquitoes reportedly don’t like smoke in general. A smoking citronella candle repels them, although even campfire smoke can help.
- Mosquito Patches are a DEET-free alternative for repelling mosquitoes. Supposedly able to repel mosquitoes for 36 hours, the patch works by infusing your skin with vitamin B1, the scent of which is unattractive to mosquitoes. Though the patches are a novel approach, reports have been positive regarding their effectiveness. Due to lack of EPA certification, however, it’s probably best to use mosquito patches as back-up only.
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