Avoiding Mosquito Bites in Tropical Countries – And Why It’s Important

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Awesome Tips   Traveler's Toolbox  

Mosquitos are quite possibly the most annoying creatures ever to exist on the earth. They fly kamikaze-style into your face and eyes, they make their high pitched droning noise in your ear and they suck your blood and leave itching welts that drive you crazy for days.

However, when you are travelling in many tropical countries mosquitos are not just annoying – they actually pose a serious health risk. So what are the health risks of mosquitos and how can you avoid them?

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Spreading Serious Diseases

These pesky insects can carry serious diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever. Even if you are travelling in some areas of the lower United States there is a risk of West Nile Virus from mosquito bites.

The mosquito obtains the virus by biting a person or an animal who is infected. When the mosquito then bites you, it can transfer the virus to you through its saliva.

Causing Skin Infections

Another risk of mosquito bites is that the excessive scratching and broken skin can cause a secondary bacterial infection. In hot and humid tropical countries it is extremely easy to get skin infections because the heat and the moisture cause bacteria to multiply at an extremely quick rate. Red and oozing infected bites are a common sight on the legs, feet and arms of backpackers in destinations such as Southeast Asia.

Trust me, I know this from experience. While in Malaysian Borneo I foolishly ignored a mosquito bite on my toe that was becoming more and more red, swollen and filled with pus. It turned into the bacterial skin infection Impetigo, in which disgusting sores started to quickly spread up my foot and leg. I needed to have the wounds cleaned out by a Malaysian doctor and it took two rounds of antibiotics to fully get rid of the infection.

Learn from my mistake! If you do get a mosquito bite, avoid scratching it and keep it clean and dry. If it starts to become infected, see a doctor as soon as possible.

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How to Avoid Mosquito Bites

Wherever you are travelling, it is important to avoid mosquito bites whenever possible. Not only will you reduce your itchiness, but you will also decrease your chances of exposing yourself to one of the dangerous mosquito-borne diseases:

  • Avoid going to areas that are highly infested with biting insects, such as walking around a lake or a marsh around twilight.
  • Be inside during dusk and dawn, as these are the times of the day when malaria mosquitos are more likely to bite.
  • Use an insect repellent with DEET in it. Studies have shown that it is the most effective.
  • A mosquito can bite you through tight clothing, so wear long loose fitting clothes such as trousers and a long sleeved shirt in the evenings.
  • Sleep under mosquito netting to avoid getting bitten during the night. Most hotels and guesthouses in tropical countries will have it.

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  • Carry a small sewing kit with you while you travel – so that you can fix any holes in your mosquito netting.
  • If you develop a fever or other signs of illness associated with a mosquito bite, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible.
  • Some say that eating certain foods, such as garlic, will help to mask your scent so that the mosquitos are not attracted to you.
  • Pay attention to your ankles under the tables when dining al fresco in the evening – I found this is when the mosquitos liked to feast on me the most.
  • Studies have shown that mosquitos are attracted to bright clothing, so stick to dark colours, neutrals and earth tones.
  • Mosquitos are attracted to sweat and body odour, so keeping as clean as possible helps.
  • Also, because they feed on flower nectar you should avoid making the mosquitos think you are a flower by wearing sweet smelling lotion or perfume.
  • Don’t freak out if there is a gecko or a lizard in your room! These little reptiles eat mosquitos, so they are your ally.

Insect Repellent coil

  • Keep your bathroom door closed when you check into your room. Even the small amounts of standing water such as in your toilet can attract mosquitos.
  • Try burning mosquito coils if you want to sit outside for a while. (but never burn them inside!)
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a simple electric fan. The fan will make it more difficult for the mosquito to fly and will also disperse the carbon dioxide trail so that they cannot detect you.

Of course, I hope this information doesn’t scare you. The risk of mosquito-borne illnesses should not be a reason to cancel your trip to that beautiful tropical country you have been dreaming about. The important thing is to be aware of the risks and to follow good practices so that you can keep yourself safe.

About the Author: Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run Global-Goose.com, packed full with guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style since 2011, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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