Diseases previously found only in the tropics have been discovered in European countries like Greece, France, Italy and Spain. A move that may concern those visiting Mediterranean beaches this summer.
The mosquito-borne disease include ‘Chikunguya’, a fever which causes fever and painful joints and ‘Dengue Fever’, a powerful flu-like virus. Whilst the risk of infection is still relatively low, travellers are being advised of the potential risk of mosquito bites and that they should take precautions to avoid them.
Here are a few simple tips to help you reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites whilst on your next holiday.
Avoidance of mosquito bites should always be considered the first line of defence against mosquito-borne infections.
There isn’t really a safe time
Different mosquitos bite at different times of the day. The mosquitos which spread malaria bite between dusk but the mostquitos which carry other diseases like Chikunguya and Dengue, tend to bite during the day.
Which means that bite-preventive measures are advisable at all times.
Although there are various insect repellents available , The NHS strongly recommend DEET N, N-Diethyl-m-tolumide above all others.
There are a few things to note about DEET.
- A concentration of 20% DEET offers between 1 to 3 hours protection.
- 30% DEET can offer up to 6 hours protection.
- 50% DEET can offer up to 12 hours protection
- Duration of protection DOES NOT increase with concentrations above 50%.
- Concentrations above 50% should NOT be used on the skin
- DEET is water soluble, so it must be reapplied after swimming
- DEET induces a reduction in SPF, so a higher protection sunscreen should be used.
- DEET should always be applied AFTER
- DEET may damage man-made fibres, and plastics (watches, sunglasses, clothing).
Although they are not recommended above DEET by the NHS, Icaridin (Picaridin) and Lemon Eucalyptus (p-menthane 3,8 diol, or PMD) may be used but their protection is not considered as effective or long-lasting.
Mosquitos cannot bite through loose fitting clothing so clothing which covers the skin is highly recommended where appropriate. Longs sleeves, high necklines and long skirts or trousers where possible. Exposed areas of skin should be covered with DEET (20% or above).
It is possible to buy clothing which is pre-treated with an insecticide which may further increase the level of protection. UK Travel Clothing brands Rohan and Craghoppers both have dedicated ranges of anti-insect clothing.
Mostquito nets can offer enhanced protection from bites, particularly whilst sleeping. These can be even more effective if treated with an insecticide. Design and manufacture of nets varies, so it is important to check suitability, practicality and portability before you invest. Most nets are available as single or double bed options.
Remember that whilst mosquitos cannot pass through a net, they can bite through it. So don’t sleep with any part of your skin touching the net.
Check any door and window screens for holes and gaps. Try to keep the doors and screens closed at all times, not just at night.
Air conditioning can be an effective deterrent. Mosquitos are less likely to be attracted to a the room if it is.
Make sure any standing water is removed as it provides that perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.
Citronella Candles and plugin insecticide-emitting devices may have a small effect as an insect deterrent but they should never be relied upon on their own. Great care should be taken using candles indoors and they should never be used anywhere near loose clothing, soft furnishings or a mosquito net.
It should also be noted that candles, coils and plugins maybe trigger the symptoms of Asthma or other breathing conditions.
A Few Myths Busted
Finally, here are a few common fallacies that you should know the truth about:
- Vitamins B1 and B12: There is no evidence that these vitamins do anything to repel mosquitoes.
- Tea Tree Oil: There is no evidence that Tea Tree Oil is effective as a mosquito repellent.
- Garlic and yeast extract: Whether taken orally or rubbed on the skin, there is no scientific evidence to suggest these do anything to repel mosquitos.
High Frequency Buzzers: Devices that emit high frequency sound waves, are completely ineffective against mosquitos. In fact, numerous companies selling these devices have been prosecuted and fined under the trade descriptions act.