Protecting Yourself Against Illnesses From Mosquito Bites

When traveling, a major source of illness is mosquitoes that spread viruses. One mosquito species spreads Dengue, Chickungunya, and Zika viruses. Another species spreads malaria, another spreads Yellow Fever, and yet another spreads Japanese Encephalitis.

Preventing mosquito bites, then, should be a high priority if you are traveling to an area at risk for one of these illnesses, even if you get vaccinated against the disease because no vaccine is 100% effective in disease prevention.

Consider adopting a two-pronged approach against mosquitos: physical barriers that keep mosquitos away and chemical repellants for the skin and clothes.

Physical Barriers

Physical barriers include (a) clothing, (b) screened doors/windows or air conditioned rooms that have closed windows/doors, and (c) mosquito bed nets.

Clothing: simply minimizing exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats can introduce a barrier between your skin and mosquitoes. Consider this when you get to our packing step in the travel checklist.

Closed or screened doors/windows: When securing your accommodations, it is important to know if you will be exposed to the outside air while in the room. If so, you might want to consider using a bed net when sleeping, especially in malaria risk areas where the Anopheles mosquitoes bite mostly at night.

Here’s a good place to purchase a bed net: http://www.mosquitonets.com/

Repellents for Clothing and Skin

Chemical repellents include those intended for the skin and those for the clothes. Follow instructions on the product label, but here some general guidelines:

  • Just spray repellant on exposed skin, not skin that is protected by clothing.
  • If using sunscreen in addition to repellant, apply the sunscreen first, then the repellant.
  • Repellant with DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 are preferred for the skin in those over the age of two months. Here is a site from the EPA that helps you pick specific products for your circumstances:

http://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-right-you

  • Repellant with permethrin is preferred for treating clothing.

Here’s an excellent article on insect repellants and a site where you can order the ones right for you:

http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/insect-repellents.html