How to stop the mosquitos from biting
Biting insects not only spoil the enjoyment of your trip but can transmit serious diseases. The only real protection against the vast majority of the insect-borne diseases in the world is bite prevention.
We recommend insect repellents for your skin and clothing as well as products you can use in your room.
How do they work?
Mosquitos are attracted to the chemicals that you secrete from your skin and some people are more attractive than others. Insect repellents do not actually repel the mosquito but create a vapour barrier that confuses them and makes you more difficult to locate. You only need apply it to exposed skin - there really is no point applying it under clothing.
Where there is significant disease risk eg dengue fever (day biting mosquito) or malaria (mosquito bites dusk - dawn) to name but two, we recommend using DEET as an insect repellent on your skin. It is safe and effective and has been extensivley tested in clincial trials. It comes in different strengths - 20% will give 1-3 hours protection, 30% gives 6 hours and 50% may last up to 12 hours. There is really not much point using anything stronger than 50% strength as the added protection is minimal with a higher risk of adverse side effects. Remember you can sweat off repellent so reapply if swimming or sweating.
Is is safe?
In clincial trials, up to 50% DEET is safe for use in pregnancy (from second trimester onwards) and for breastfeeding women. Pregnant women are very attractive to mosquitoes and so have a higher chance of being bitten.
DEET is safe for use on children but do not use on children younger than 2 months old. It is best to put repellent on your hands and then rub it on your child's exposed skin, avoiding their hands if they suck their fingers. Remember to reapply according to the length of time it protects (20% DEET will need to be reapplied every few hours) and wash it off before you put them to bed at night.
Are there more natural repellents?
There are natural repellents (PMD) available based on extracts of oil of Lemon eucalyptus. It offers a similar protection as DEET but lasts for a shorter time so would need to be reapplied more often. Although manufacturers have their own age ranges for PMD, health experts don't recommend it yet for children under 3 years of age as it has not been tested as extensively as DEET for this age range.
Repellent for clothing
Light coloured clothing apparently makes you less visible to mosquitos and if they are loose fitting, it makes it harder for them to bite through to your skin. There are impregnation kits containing permethrin, similar to those used in mosquito nets, available for your clothing. These last approx 2 weeks and can withstand several washes. They are particularly useful for the trousers and shirt you may be wearing relaxing in the evenings, watching that perfect sunset. They also offer very good protection against ticks.
So what should I do?
We recommend applying insect repellent to your exposed skin and permethrin to your clothing. In malarious areas, sleep under a bed net unless you are in air conditioned accommodation.
Mosquitos struggle with airconditioning - they are less active in the cold and you are harder to locate and land on when the fan is dispersing your scent and causing turbulent airflow. If your room is not airconditioned then make sure you shut any window and door screens from dusk til dawn and that they do not have any holes. There are spatial repellents that you can use in your room - vapourisers and coils release pyrethroid chemicals that knock down, kill or inhibit the feeding of mosquitos. If your room isn't screened or you are sleeping outside then use an impregnated mosquito net.
So in summary...
If you don't let the bugs bite, you can't catch the diseases they carry. You need to be vigilant - it only takes a single bite from an infected mosquito for the malaria parasite to enter your bloodstream!