Many of us are all too familiar with the unique whining sound, the soft tickle against the skin and the resulting itchy welt when the mosquito leaves its mark. With a normal bite the annoyance subsides after several days, however mosquitoes are also carriers of the serious and even fatal disease malaria, along with dengue, yellow fever and encephalitis.
If you plan to travel to a subtropical or tropical place this summer, avoiding malaria should be high on your list of priorities.
Looking at the bigger picture, you can avoid malaria by staying away from malaria zones. Even if you are keen to see a certain town or landmark, if it falls in a malaria area, consider whether it’s worth the risk or if you’d be better off going somewhere else instead. You can find country-specific malaria maps and information on the NHS’ Fit for Travel website.
Once your travel plans are made, you should then prepare to avoid mosquito bites. You never know when that one bite will turn into an illness that makes you regret a much anticipated trip. Take the time in your home country to pack an anti-mosquito survival kit:
- Reliable insect repellent, and plenty of it.
- Long sleeved tops and long trousers. Long sleeved clothes provide great sun protection as well, just keep in mind that mosquitos can bite through thin clothing so the thicker you can stand, the better.
- Permethrin-treated mosquito repellent clothing if you are visiting a high risk zone.
- Mosquito netting, pyrethroid coils, or insecticide tablets. Although some claims are made that garlic, ultrasound devices and/or taking vitamin B can help prevent bites, these claims cannot be trusted. Stronger measures are needed to prevent bites and therefore malaria.
You can also take anti-malarial tablets; although there is currently no vaccine against malaria, taking tablets is a good way to protect yourself. You can obtain chloroquine and proguanil from a local pharmacy, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone), mefloquine (Lariam) or doxycycline with a prescription. Prescriptions for anti-malarial tablets are also available through a consultation with a regulated online chemist.
Take your tablets as recommended, paying close attention to ensure you take them on time and with or after a meal.
Once you have arrived in your destination, use good common sense to avoid mosquito bites by following an appropriate routine. Apply mosquito repellent to all exposed areas of the skin (applying sun screen first) and reapply throughout the day. If you go swimming or sweat excessively, be sure to follow up with a good dose of repellent.
Check your accommodations to ensure they provide proper protection from insects- screens on windows and doors, or an intact mosquito netting over the bed. You can treat the mosquito netting with your repellent or ask if it is already mosquito- resistant. Better still, stay in a room with air conditioning with doors and windows that can be closed completely.