Travelers often face different diseases abroad than those they encounter at home. Many of these are transmitted through the bite of a mosquito, tick or other insect. Some of these diseases can be avoided by having a vaccination or taking preventative medication. Others cannot. Additionally, vaccines and medication do not provide 100% protection. To stay healthy, it is important to avoid insect bites.
Know their habitats and habits
Understanding your environment can help you predict what insects might be present. Ticks live in wooded areas, shrubs and grasses. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, such as swamps and open water containers in residential areas. Different types of mosquitoes bite at different times of the day. For example, those that spread malaria bite at night (from “dusk until dawn”), while mosquitoes that spread dengue fever bite during the day (primarily at dusk and dawn). Note that one area may house several types of mosquitoes. You need to take bite prevention steps at all times of the day.
Preventing bites while outdoors
- Wear light-colored clothing that covers most of the body (long sleeves and long pants), weather permitting. Wear socks and shoes that cover your entire foot. Tuck pant legs into socks for added protection.
- Use an effective insect repellent, such as one containing DEET. In general, the higher the concentration of the active ingredient in a product, the longer it lasts and hence the more effective it is. Reapply after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Consider treating clothing with an insecticide.
- These are available as both soaks and sprays, and usually last through several washing. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Insect repellents can be used with sunscreens. You may apply sunscreen first.
- Once you return indoors, check your clothing and body for ticks. If you find one, remove it promptly.
Prevent bites while you are indoors or asleep
- Make sure that there is fly-wire (mosquito netting) on all of your windows.
- Use “knock-down” aerosol spray or electric insecticide vaporizers to kill insects in your room.
- Use air-conditioning when possible, it may reduce the chance that you will be bitten.
- Consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net. Pre-treated nets are available, some of which can last 3-5 years through repeated washing. To ensure insects cannot enter any part of the net, tuck it under the mattress or make sure it touches the ground.
(International SOS, Health Information)