Travel Tips

Top Tips for avoiding and treating mosquito bites.

It’s hard to believe that these tiny little blighters can inflict so much pain and misery, let alone death in some countries, but as we well know they do.

As I write this I am sitting in a hotel room in Andalusia, Spain with one ankle swollen up like a balloon and wanting to rip off my skin from below the knees having already scratched it raw…and I have only been here less than 24hrs.

“OUCH”

All I can say is that I wish I had the power to attract the opposite sex in the same way I attract mosquitos – they LOVE me, worldwide over. On a couple of occasions I have been bitten just on arrival to hotels sitting outside having welcome drinks etc before the holiday has even begun. It’s difficult to spray yourself immediately given that airlines no longer allow you to take liquids on aircraft, so I would recommend giving yourself a quick spray of repellent before leaving home or insure you pack your spray at the very top of your luggage so that you can quickly access it on arrival at your destination of required.

Now on this occasion I only have myself to blame as I have travelled the world over and been severely bitten before and I know I am allergic to the bites, but alas on this short business trip to Spain I foolishly left behind my one saving grace: ‘Skin so soft’ by Avon. Now this product is neither sold nor recommended as a mosquito repellent and yet I know that many people (including myself) have used it and swear by it. In fact I am told it does the job so well that even the Marines use it.

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‘Skin so soft’ by Avon

DEET

There are many ‘natural’ mosquito repellent products on the market but if you speak to any expert on this subject then the advice will be always be to use a product which contains deet, which is clinically proven. Obviously the stronger the concentration the better, especially when travelling to countries with known risks of malaria, dengue/zika. There are again many deet based products on the market worldwide. It is not nice when inhaled and can sting like mad if you get it in your eyes, so do take extra care when applying deet based products and do read individual product recommendations in relation to strength & suitability for children. Also make sure you re-apply any repellent after swimming or excess sweating!

Deet can reduce the SPF in your sunscreens so make sure you re-apply this at regular intervals too, or use a slightly higher spf than you would do normally. Being bitten AND sunburnt would not be a whole lot of fun!

There are wristbands/bracelets on the markets now which are also deet based as sold as mosquito repellents. I have read mixed reports of these on Amazon etc. They will of course be less harsh for children, but possibly not as effective as applying deet directly to the skin.

WHAT TO AVOID

Mosquitos can bite through tight clothing (I know – been there and done that on a swampy Segway tour whilst in the Bahamas!) so try and wear longer loose fitting clothing.

Also try to avoid alcohol (sorry) and perfumes, both of which are more likely to attract the mozzies directly to you.

LEMON & CITRONELLA

It is a known fact that mosquito’s do not like the smell of lemons and therefore lemon oil, lemons sprays etc may help in keeping them away from your person.

However you can also buy lemon or citronella products to try and keep your environment mosquito free as well. We took a large citronella candle to Barbados last year which we put out on our balcony and lit every time we sat out there and we were not bothered by mosquitos at all. I also had some small tealights which I lit indoors but natural common sense should be used if using candles anywhere but especially if you have young children running around. If you don’t like the idea of candles then you may prefer to get a plug in for your room which will probably be safer and especially at night.

Citronella Candles such as this one may help to keep your immediate environment free of mosquitos

OTHER REPELLENTS

I asked my facebook friends the other night what they thought the most effective mosquito repellents were. The Avon skin so soft was definitely the No.1 response, followed by deet, but other suggestions came in as follows:

Vicks & Water

Apple Cider Vinegar

Eating Garlic

Eating Marmite!

Tonic Water /Quinine

Vitamin B1 (max strength)

Mint Oil

and the most useful suggestion of all “roll up a copy of a local newspaper and smack em” I am guessing ANY newspaper would be equally effective 🙂

YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN BITTEN?

If you have already been eaten alive by mosquitos then most likely a lot of the above is not going to be applicable to you.

Some people can be bitten and not really even notice, whilst many people like myself will have a serious reaction to them leading to unbearable itching, swelling, redness and burning.

If, following a mosquito bite you have any kind of fever, you suspect infection or have a more severe reaction then SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ADVICE.

Otherwise, most mosquito bites are treatable yourself and any reaction should subside in around 2-5 days.

ANTIHISTAMINE

Again there are lots and lots of bite/sting relief and antihistamine creams on the market. I have to say however that I have tried many creams over the years with little effect. However I have found that antihistamine tablets take effect fairly quickly, so generally in my travel bag I carry Piriton tablets (it is also available in syrup) but other brands of antihistamine tablets are available worldwide so even if you have travelled overseas without any, you should be able to find something in your local pharmacy.

I have found Piriton tablets one of the most effective forms of relief for mosquito bites.

ALOE VERA

I have also found pure Aloe Vera a welcome relief, especially to the itching and burning which often comes with the bites. If you are in a country where you can get access to the Aloe Vera plant itself then nothing beats being able to split open the plant and rub that inner cooling gel of the plant directly into your bites, its fantastic for sunburn too.

Aloe Vera is renowned for its healing properties and in fact the company ‘Forever Living’ has built a worldwide multi million dollar business from selling numerous products made from ethically sources Aloe Vera. Personally I love many of their products but in particular their pure Aloe Vera Gel in a tube which is pretty much the next best thing to the plant itself. Forever Living sell their products via Home networks and online so unfortunately you can’t buy them ‘off the shelf’ but there are lots of alternative Aloe Vera products out there if you look.

HEAT

When a mosquito bites you it also injects proteins into your skin to prevent your blood from clotting (which would cut off its feeding supply). It is these proteins which cause the allergic reactions, the protein however cannot survive under moderate heat and therefore placing the back of a hot teaspoon directly onto the bites can provide relief.

If you have a lot of bites I have found it equally effective just to plunge myself into a bath as hot as I can bare. The relief from itching is almost instantaneous. (Adding oatmeal to the bath may also provide additional relief – but it will take you a little while longer to clean to bath afterwards!!)

TAKE CARE of using this method not to burn yourself and use only hot tap water, NOT boiling water.

OTHER SUGGESTED RELIEFS include:

Rubbing the bite with alcohol

Dabbing honey on the bites (do not wear honey outside as this risks attracting more mosquitos)

Making a garlic or basil paste, both which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Placing a cold tea bag on the effected area

Enjoy your travels and remember always that ‘prevention is better than cure’ (spoken from the person who has been bitten on numerous occasions!)

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