I’ve had malaria (and mosquito born illnesses in general) on the brain lately. Perhaps it’s because mosquitoes everywhere seem to mistake me for an all you can eat buffet with a big, neon sign above it. Perhaps it’s because I live next to a (mercifully, non-malaria infested) lagoon where the little devils like to come out and feast on me if I ever make the mistake of being outside at either dawn or dusk. Most likely, however, it’s that I’m on a quest to travel the world and I’d love to see some of the more, umm…tropical places on this planet that have the unfortunate distinction of having evil, malaria infested mosquitoes flying around.
So, what’s a travel-obsessed, mosquito magnet girl to do when she really wants to tromp through the jungle but doesn’t want to bring back a souvenir of severe illness? Research, of course!
But let’s talk about how much mosquitoes love me for a moment. I don’t know what it is, but those little buggers seem to think I’m some kind of tasty treat. It’s as though I’m a big, walking slice of chocolate cake who just so happened to wander unsuspectingly into a cake eaters anonymous meeting. I’m a magnet for the evil bastards. I can be in a group of 50 people and mosquitoes from miles around will zero in on me. They will call their friends from a county over. “Hey, George! Get over here! There’s a woman in this group that’s DELICIOUS! Hurry before she’s gone!”
You get the picture.
With that kind of burden to bear, the prospect of traveling to a place known for things like malaria, dengue fever, west nile, chikungunya, yellow fever, zika, or any other horrible thing transmitted by evil little blood suckers makes me understandably nervous. Still, as somebody who desperately wants to discover the wonders of the Serengeti and explore the Amazon, I don’t want to let a presence of Malaria or other mosquito born diseases stop me from living my life. That’s where the research comes in. I want to minimize my risk when visiting these areas so I can still enjoy my life and see the world. If you’re traveling to a place where mosquitoes are plenty, you might want to think about minimizing your risk as well. Here are some things to do….
Choose your clothing wisely.
Places that mosquitoes thrive in tend to be hot, so the thought of wearing long-sleeved clothes, long pants, and shoes with socks can seem like a bad option. The way I see it, I would much rather overheat than get bitten by a mosquito. Most of the advice I’ve read also stipulates that your clothing should be light colored because apparently mosquitoes are less attracted to light colors than dark colors. Also go for tightly woven fabrics so it’s harder for mosquitoes to poke their evil little suckers through and bite you. So….long khaki pants, boots with longer white socks, and a long sleeved white shirt it is. I don’t mind that I will end up looking like some stereotype of a tourist on safari. Stereotypes exist for a reason and I would rather feel like a giant dork than get sick.
But aside from the type of clothing you choose to wear, did you know that you can buy clothing specially designed to repel mosquitoes? Oh, happy day…take my money! I’m not going to recommend any specific item, because I haven’t tried them (yet) but a simple Google search of “mosquito clothing” will return a lot of results for you to search through, so that’s something to think about as well.
If specialty mosquito repelling clothing isn’t in your budget or you just don’t want to buy it for one reason or another, you can also try spraying down your clothing with a repellent containing DEET, which also works as a mosquito-treatment clothing.
Speaking of DEET…
I live in Southern California and a lot of people here are into natural, healthier alternatives to pretty much everything, so I hear a lot about how DEET is horrible for you and how you should smother yourself in orange juice, carry around a citronella candle, or wear one of those bracelets that smells like eucalyptus oil or whatever else is the advice du jour. Thing is, when you’re an all you can eat mosquito buffet like I am, none of those things work. Sure, it might work for somebody without a giant MOSQUITOES EAT HERE sign above their head, but for me….nope. I’ll take my chances with the DEET, and lots of it. It’s the only thing that seems to help me.
Sleep under a mosquito net
If your hotel won’t have one, bring one and tack that sucker to the ceiling. Seriously, net yourself!
Get poked, prodded, and prescribed before you go…
Before you travel to a place known for mosquito-transmitted illnesses, see your doctor. Depending on where you’re going and what the mosquitoes in your destination are spreading around, you’ll receive appropriate treatment and advice. For instance, yellow fever, which is a mosquito-transmitted disease, has a vaccine. For areas with malaria, you’ll be prescribed an antimalarial medication.
Some of the natural remedies can’t hurt, just for good measure…
Citronella, lemon eucalyptus oil, and lavender have all been said to repel mosquitoes. I’m not saying skip the DEET, because when it comes to horrific mosquito-transmitted diseases, I’d rather shower myself in poisonous DEET than get sick, but…you know, doubling up with some of the other remedies out there can’t hurt. I’m not taking any chances when it comes to mosquitoes.
Skip Happy Hour
I get it…you’re on vacation. Cheers to that! But did you know that alcohol increases your CO2 production, thus making you more attractive to mosquitoes? I will NOT drink to that!
Try to avoid peak mosquito hours…
Dawn and dusk are like mosquito social hour. They just looooove to come out during those times and have a meal together…and that meal is you. If at all possible, try to stay indoors during these times. Relax, catch up on your novel, have a snack, take a nap, whatever you want to do, and save your outdoor excursions for times when less mosquitoes are out on the prowl.
If you’re pregnant, maybe postpone that trip…
Mosquitoes love biting pregnant people. Something about those pesky CO2 levels again.
Try to travel during non-mosquito season.
Mosquitoes love hot, sticky, wet weather. They thrive in humid places with a lot of standing water. Keeping that in mind, you might want to do a little research before you go on when the cooler, non-rainy times of year are. You’ll enjoy a mosquito-reduced adventure.
If you get bitten anyway…
Chances are, you might be fine. Not ALL the mosquitoes are going to give you horrible illnesses. However, if you do get some bites, make sure to monitor your health and see the doctor right away if you develop any symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rash, headaches, etc. In most cases, you’ll be in much better shape if you seek treatment right away. Tell your doctor you’ve been traveling in an area with mosquito-transmitted diseases (specify where and what), and that you’re concerned.
I take mosquito avoidance very seriously, so hopefully I’ll be able to continue to travel without issue. Have you traveled to an area with a mosquito-transmitted disease present? What steps did you take to protect yourself? Have you ever contracted a mosquito-born illness? I would love to hear YOUR thoughts, advice, etc.
Also, just for good measure, I’ll link to the CDC page on mosquitoes because they have some great tips and information.