If you’re travelling to a tropical country, you probably know that limiting your exposure to mosquitoes is paramount in the fight against diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever. But you may not know how to keep those critters from biting. Here are some personal protective measures you can use to prevent mosquito bites.
Insect repellents applied to skin interfere with the mosquitoes’ chemo receptors for carbon dioxide and lactic acid. There are several types of insect repellents available on the market. Some are ‘natural’ repellents, such as citronella, which typically lasts a short time and has limited efficacy. Others are chemical repellents, such as DEET.
DEET is extremely effective against mosquitoes and, after many years, still maintains an excellent safety profile. The concentration of DEET does not imply its efficacy, but rather the length of time you can go between applications. Concentrations of 30% are recommended if you are travelling to a malarial region. Repellents should be applied to exposed skin, particularly at dusk and dawn, with careful use around the face and mucous membranes.
Mosquito nets are used as a physical barrier to prevent insect bites while sleeping. The nets must be free of tears, draped properly above the bed and completely tucked under the mattress. For optimal usefulness, the nets should be impregnated with an insecticide such as permethrin. Pore size should be a maximum of 1.5 mm although this is not as significant if the net is impregnated.
Protective clothing provides a physical barrier that prevents mosquitoes from being able to feed. Clothing should cover arms, legs, and ankles (long-sleeves, pants and socks). Light colours and loose clothing are best. Ideally, such clothing should be used during those times of the day when mosquitoes are biting.
The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to combine all of the different preventative techniques.