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Wednesday 14 March 2018

How to keep away mosquitoes and avoid their bites during travels

Travel Pests – The Mosquitoes; and tips on how to avoid and get rid of them.

A mosquito sucking blood  - Representative image
A mosquito, sucking blood. (Representative image)

There's no traveller who wouldn't have been pestered by these pesky bloodsuckers. And being a potential carrier for life-threatening diseases like malaria, dengue, and others, mosquitoes can go from being just a pesky pest to a dangerous transmitter of deadly diseases. So, here's some sure ways to avoid and keep them away from you.

Whether you’re visiting beaches, monuments, forests, or just trying to spend a nice evening time outdoors on the patio of your exquisite cottage in the woods, you will be pestered by some itchy bites, thanks to mosquitoes.

They are almost all over the world, and their bites not only cause terrible itching, but also spread deadly diseases like malaria, dengue, chikungunya, zika, and more.

So, what’s the solution for this nasty problem whether you're outdoors or indoors, that is, how to get rid of mosquitoes during your travels or while back at home?

Below we discuss the solutions to this ubiquitous pest - solutions that are very effective for both indoors and outdoors, which we’ve found out through personal experience and alternatives suggested by researches.

Before we go to the practical solutions to keep mosquitoes away, let us briefly look into some mosquito facts.

Some Mosquito Facts – Why you should be concerned

Mosquitoes, the most ubiquitous pests, are not only travel pests, but are universal pests almost all over the world.

The Antarctic and Iceland are the only places with no mosquitoes [1]. Wherever you’ve travelled to, or even at home, you’ve surely been bothered by these pesky pests.

As you'd know already, not only do these pesky and persistent bloodsuckers cause terrible itching which is reason enough to keep them away, they also spread deadly and dangerous diseases.

Mosquito bites result in the deaths of more than 725,000 people each year—more than any other animal. Compare this number with 50,000 deaths from snakes, 25,000 from dogs, and 20,000 from tsetse flies. [2]. Yes, the most dangerous creature to humans is the mosquito!

According to the World Health Organization, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in areas where mosquito-borne diseases are common [3]. While Malaria is the deadliest among the diseases spread by mosquitoes, the other diseases they spread, such as Chikungunya, Zika, Dengue, West Nile Virus, and Yellow Fever, are also dangerous and deadly.

Okay, now don't get paranoid, for each and every mosquito doesn't carry these grave diseases. Even then, their itchy bites are enough to ruin your sleep or a nice outdoors time. So, how to avoid this pesky pest from biting? Keep reading.

Avoid mosquito bites – Tips to keep mosquitoes away

An Aedes albopictus mosquito sucking blood  - Representative image. Image Credit: CDC/James Gathany
An Aedes albopictus mosquito, which had landed on the photographer’s finger, in search of a blood meal. (Representative Image) Image Credit: CDC/James Gathany.

Whether you are visiting beaches, monuments, forests, or trying to spend a nice evening time on the patio, veranda, or a balcony of your exquisite cottage in the woods, you will be pestered by some itchy bites. So, what’s the solution for this nasty problem? So far, we’ve found out only one that’s very effective.

  • Use a good mosquito repellent -- A mosquito repellent cream, spray, or a fabric roll-on.

    A good mosquito repellent cream has helped us to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes in the outdoors. We used the mosquito repellent cream called Odomos on some of our trips and did not get a bite from those pesky mosquitoes!

    We covered our arms and legs and a little bit over the neck too, with this cream. Yes, this is effective, and no, this is not an advertorial for that brand. We have tried it ourselves on different occassions and we have found it to be useful wherever we had to deal with mosquitoes. You are free to try any brands which are available to you.

    Just keep a tube of mosquito repellent cream with you while travelling, just in case you need it. These days, mosquito repellents also come in the form of sprays and fabric roll-ons too.

    Just remember that once you are done applying the repellent, wash your hands well, especially if you are going to eat with your hands. The repellents are for external use only and should not be consumed. Also make sure that you do not apply it over an open wound.

    However, we rarely use the repellent cream and would like to recommend that it should be used only when it’s really required. The mosquito repellent creams aren’t without side-effects, according to some doctors and researches.

    Doctors note that chemicals such as Pyrethrum, which is used in most repellents, could harm humans in the long run [4]. Even DEET (chemical name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide), which is a commonly used chemical in many mosquito repellents, and similar compounds like DEB (N, N-diethyl-benzamide - which is used in Odomos[5][6]) aren't completely non-toxic, and studies [7] and research[8] on humans and rats indicate that they are capable of causing adverse effects, either through the skin, or cause respiratory depression with adequate dosage through aerosols (fine droplets of the chemical dispersed in air).

    However, the CDC, (Centres for Disease Control And Prevention, a United States federal agency) recommends repellent products with DEET as one of the active ingredients. EPA-registered products containing the active ingredient OLE (or PMD) Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (chemical name: para-menthane-3,8-diol), the synthesized version of OLE, is also recommended by them. However, they do not recommend “Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil not formulated as a repellent); as it has not undergone similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy.[9] So be aware when you purchase a repellent.

  • Natural remedies, as per researches : According to a research, Two percent neem oil mixed in coconut oil, when applied to the exposed body parts provides complete protection for 12 hours from the bites of all anopheline species[10]. Neem oil is natural and can be safely applied on the skin. It is extracted from the seeds of the Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica)[11]. However this research doesn't say anything about its effectiveness on mosquitoes of other genera, (such as -- Aedes, Culex, Culiseta, Haemagogus, and Ochlerotatus).

    According to a field study, the repellent action of neem oil was evaluated against different mosquito species. 2% neem oil mixed in coconut oil provided 96-100% protection from anophelines, 85% from Aedes, 37.5% from Armigeres whereas it showed wide range of efficacy from 61-94% against Culex spp[12].

    Another research finds the application of Neem cream to be 68% effective for four hours, and suggests it as a safe and suitable alternative. It was found that, the application of neem cream on exposed body parts with 2.0 gm/person showed 78 (range 65-95), 89 (range 66-100) and 94.4 (range 66-100) per cent protection against Aedes, Culex and Anopheles mosquitoes respectively[13].

Mosquito repellent coil. (Representative Image)
Mosquito repellent coil. (Representative Image, from Pixabay)

  • Other mosquito repellent options are using a mosquito repellent coil, mat or a liquid vapour repellents such as Mortein, for example.

    For mats and liquid vapour repellents, you will need an electric power source, and hence these work only when you are in a room and not when you are outside walking. Make sure that the room is well ventilated if you use them.

    However, usages of these aren’t free of side effects too, and are known to cause harmful effects on us. [4][11].

    For example, the emission of formaldehyde from burning one coil can be as high as that released from burning 51 cigarettes.[14]

    We couldn’t find researches conducted deeply on the matter of how these repellant chemicals effect us, and so, we cannot exactly say that how much of a negative impact they may cause on our bodies. However, it has been observed that they aggravate asthma and other allergic manifestations in people, particularly children. [4]

An aedes albopictus mosquito (Representative image). Image Credit: CDC/James Gathany.
An aedes albopictus mosquito (Representative Image). Image Credit: CDC/James Gathany.

Best practices to follow for keeping mosquitoes away

  • The trick, and the best practice, as of now, is to carry a mosquito repellent (either a spray, cream, a fabric roll on, or any other kind of repellent), but at the same time minimise the use of mosquito repellents.

    Just make sure you use it only when you really require it, and try to avoid places and destinations which have malaria or any other such outbreaks in their areas -- keep an eye on the local news around the area or region you visit.

  • You can carry a mosquito net, especially while camping outdoors, or find out if your place of stay provides you one. There won’t be any mosquito menace inside A.C rooms if you don’t leave the door or windows open for too long (in case the windows can be opened).

  • However, when you are outdoors (whether you are relaxing, walking or just moving around), applying the mosquito repellent cream or spray or fabric roll-ons appears to be the only solution.

  • Other Best Practices include :
    • Wearing full-sleeved clothes and pants that cover your feet fully will help. Wearing shoes that cover your feet is better than slippers or sandals that expose the skin of feet.
    • Apply the repellent cream or spray as indicated on the products. Never apply on cuts and wounds, Never apply on your eyes or mouth, and always wash your hands after the applications. Do not use too much of the repellent cream or spray, and wash it off or take a bath once you get back indoors.

  • You should consult your doctor if you feel you have any allergies or side effects from mosquito repellents, whether they’re creams, sprays, mosquito coils, mats or liquid vapour based repellents. In any case, us them only when they're really required. We use them sparingly, and we haven’t faced any side-effect issues so far.

We hope these tips will help you deal with your mosquito problems on your future travels, trips, or treks. Do you have any suggestions of your own? Just leave a comment below.

Happy travelling :)

References & links for further reading:
[1] Why are the Seychelles free of malaria? - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). (2011, April 21). Why are the Seychelles free of malaria?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
[2] Time to Hunt Some Blood-Sucking Bugs : Earth Matters : Blogs – NASA Earth Observatory, by Adam Voiland, published June 28th, 2017. RRetrieved March 13, 2018.
[3] Mosquito-borne diseases – World Health Organisation
[4] Are mosquito repellents safe? – The Hindu (Published: March 06, 2007 00:00 IST. Updated: September 28, 2016 00:44 IST)
[5] The Sweet Smell of N,N-Diethylbenzamide - on Kindle Magazine, By Thomas Crowley, Pop Goes the Culture, (Published: June 3, 2014)
[6] “Efficacy of Advanced Odomos Repellent Cream (N, N-Diethyl-Benzamide) against Mosquito Vectors.” - By Mittal, P.K. et al., The Indian Journal of Medical Research 133.4 (2011): 426–430.
[7] Is it true that the DEET used in most mosquito repellents is toxic? - Scientific American, EarthTalk.
[8] Comparative effects of insect repellent N,N-diethylbenzamide, N,N-diethylphenylacetamide, and N,N-diethyl-3- methylbenzamide aerosols on the breathing pattern and respiratory variables in mice. - By Deb U1, Ahmed F, Singh S, Mendki MJ, Vijayaraghavan R. Inhal Toxicol. 2010 May;22(6):469-78. doi: 10.3109/08958370903456652.
[9] Protection against Mosquitoes, Ticks, & Other Arthropods - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Travelers' Health, Yellow Book, By John-Paul Mutebi, William A. Hawley, William G. Brogdon
[10] Mosquito repellent action of neem (Azadirachta indica) oil. - Sharma VP, Ansari MA, Razdan RK., J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 1993 Sep;9(3):359-60.
[11] Health hazards of mosquito repellents and safe alternatives - V. P. Sharma, CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 80, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2001
[12] Field studies on the mosquito repellent action of neem oil. - By Sharma SK1, Dua VK, Sharma VP. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 1995 Mar;26(1):180-2. PMID: 8525409.
[13] Repellent action of neem cream against mosquitoes. - Dua VK1, Nagpal BN, Sharma VP. Indian J Malariol. 1995 Jun;32(2):47-53. PMID: 7589727.
[14] Mosquito coil emissions and health implications. - Liu, W., Zhang, J., Hashim, J. H., Jalaludin, J., Hashim, Z., & Goldstein, B. D. (2003). Mosquito coil emissions and health implications. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111(12), 1454–1460.

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