Mosquitos never used to go for me, I always assumed I wasn’t their type; the one and only positive to inheriting my Dad’s pale, freckly (and clearly untasty) skin. But that was until I visited super hot countries like Laos and Vietnam and I found myself scratching and rubbing at my first ever bites. I only had two or three, but after years of European Mosquitoes turning their nose up at my scent, I was cursing the gang of Asian Mosquitoes who had chosen to nibble on me.
In the past I’ve witnessed friends, family members and fellow travellers suffer severely due to those nasty mosquitoes not being able to keep their dirty paws to themselves. I once travelled with a girl in Thailand who was suffering so badly with bites that she actually wanted to pack her bags and go home.
It frustrates me to think that these pesky little bugs could potentially ruin a holiday or send a traveller fleeing home. Whether you’re off on the adventure of a lifetime or just plan to escape to the beach for a week, we can’t let these irritating bugs go around ruining holidays! With that in mind, I teamed up with the British Skin Foundation to put together the below guide on how to tackle mosquitos and those bloody bites …. pun intended!
Lets first take a look at exactly what it is they are attracted to…
Our Blood, obvs, but which type?
Studies dating all the way back to 1972 suggest that mosquitoes seem to prefer those with Type O blood. They land on skin with Type O blood twice as often as those with Type A. People with Type B blood fall somewhere in between.
Mosquitoes are attracted to exhaled carbon dioxide. Now, exhaling carbon dioxide is obviously something we all do, however, those that exhale more gas – usually larger people with increased body habitus – are actually more likely to get bitten.
Oh Dear, it seems Pregnant women are more susceptible to bites than their non-pregnant counterparts. This is likely due to the fact that they exhale relatively more carbon dioxide and have a higher resting body temperature. Be careful Mum & Bumps.
Dark Clothing (White is officially the new Black)
Who knew that Mosquitoes were so attracted to dark colours? Not me, but according to Consultant Dermatologist Dr.Anjali Mahto, it is best to dress in light colours such as pastels or whites and to avoid black and navy blue to avoid attracting Mosquitoes.
So, what can we do to reduce the risk of getting bitten?
Chemical-based Insect Repellent
Diethyltoluamide (DEET) is probably the most effective chemical repellent available and has a good safety record. Research has shown that a repellent containing approximately 20% DEET will protect you for about 5 hours, so when purchasing your insect repellent for your holibobs, be sure to check the ingredients. Weaker formulations of 10% or less are safe to use on infants from the age of 2 months.
Plant-based Insect Repellent
There are a number of plant based chemicals that can offer some protection against mosquito bites. These include citronella, lemon eucalyptus, and neem to name a few. They aren’t as effective as DEET and if travelling to areas that are endemic to malaria it’s not recommended to be used as your one and only protection against mosquitoes.
What to do if you get bitten?
Insect bites can commonly cause lumps, itching and whealing of the skin and occasionally small blisters may even develop – ouch! But fear not, there are a number of things we can do to minimise discomfort.
- Antihistamines – taking oral antihistamines will relieve the itch and swelling e.g. cetirizine 10mg once or twice a day
- Applying a mild steroid cream twice a day (hydrocortisone 0.5-2.5%) for a few days can reduce inflammation and itching
- Applying Calamine lotion can also help to sooth itchy areas
- Cooling the skin down with a cold compress can help too
Bites can settle within a few days or in some cases even a few hours, but it is important to remember to avoid scratching the skin. One of the many functions of our skin is to act as a barrier to the outside world; if the skin becomes broken (which it can if scratched) an infection is much more likely to develop.
If you notice puss or discharge in or around the bite, increased pain, redness or swelling, or even swollen glands, then the bite/s may require treatment with antibiotics so make sure to go see a doctor ASAP – another reason to make sure you get yourself some decent Travel insurance.
Happy Holidays, Safe Travels and I hope this guide comes in handy to anyone hoping to tackle mosquitoes. For more advice on taking care of your skin abroad check out this blog post or head to www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk
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