A mosquito takes its name from the Spanish for ‘little fly’, but don’t let the name fool you; this little fly can cause a big amount of annoyance. Though usually more just irritating than dangerous, mosquito populations can be dense in popular travel destinations. If you’re going on holiday soon, you’ll want to read on to learn how to avoid a mosquito bite and what to do if your bite becomes serious.
Where are there mosquitos?
Mosquitos can live anywhere, but areas with a humid, tropical climate will have a higher density. Places like Brazil, Thailand, Australia and South American countries are thought to have the most. African and Asian countries also tend to have a high population of the critters.
Common mosquito diseases
The most prevalent mosquito-borne diseases worldwide include:
- Zika virus
- West Nile virus
- Dengue fever
- Yellow fever
- Chikungunya virus
Before you travel, let your doctor or local travel clinic know where you’re going. They’ll know if you’re at risk of catching any of these and will give you the appropriate immunisations and advice.
Treating mosquito bites and understanding symptoms
Just because you’ve been bitten by a mosquito doesn’t mean you’re in grave danger. In fact, other than an irritating itch, mostly you’ll be fine. Especially if you’ve had the necessary vaccinations for wherever you’re travelling to. Common mosquito bite symptoms include:
- Inflammation and lumps – quite soon after a mosquito bites you, you’ll likely get a swollen lump with a red dot in the centre. This lump can harden over the next few days but if you feel okay and have no other symptoms, you should be fine just washing the area and applying an antihistamine.
- Itching – the annoying side effect most of us are all too familiar with, itching is a natural reaction to the inflammation of the skin. Though it can be difficult, you should avoid scratching as this leaves you more open to infections.
- Mild headaches – if you have a slight headache, don’t be too alarmed. Take some painkillers to begin with and only go to a doctor if it doesn’t go away in time
How do I know if I have an infected mosquito bite?
Signs of a more serious illness after a mosquito bite include:
- Blistering – reacting to a mosquito bite by coming out with small blisters could be a cause for alarm as it’s usually an indicator of a weakened immune system.
- Anaphylaxis – a potentially fatal reaction to a bite could be going into anaphylactic shock, which is a severe allergic reaction. Dizziness, difficulty breathing, and fainting are the usual symptoms, and you should seek immediate medical treatment if you or a friend show signs of anaphylaxis.
- High fever – anything higher than 37 degrees is considered a high temperature, but the higher the number after a mosquito bite, the more reason you should seek medical treatment. High fever could be a sign of mosquito-carried diseases including malaria and yellow fever.
- Skin rash – different from a lump or a patch of inflammation, a skin rash could be a sign of the chikungunya virus.
- Fatigue – not always a direct cause for concern since travelling to hot, foreign climates can take it out of all of us, severe fatigue (especially coming on after a mosquito bite) could be a sign of diseases like West Nile virus or the chikungunya virus.
- Vomiting – again, hot climates and travelling might mean that you’re more likely to feel nauseous without it being anything serious. But with a mosquito bite, vomiting could be a sign of illnesses like malaria or dengue fever.
How to prevent mosquito bites
Though some people are just unlucky and attract more mozzies than their travelling partners, there are steps you can take to make yourself less vulnerable to a bite.
- Wear light colours – not only will your holiday photos pop with the colour, but mosquitos are attracted to dark colours.
- Use insect repellent.
- Avoid activities in certain times of the day where possible – mosquitos tend to appear more during dusk and dawn.
- Wear appropriate clothing – not just in terms of colour, but clothes that cover exposed skin and can be tucked in so nothing can sneak up a hem or down a sleeve.
- Don’t leave any food, drink or standing water lying around – leaving your wet beach towel over the balcony, or a window open near a half-drunk can of coke, could attract hordes more mosquitos.
- Netting – an insect net will protect you as you sleep.
- Crank up the air con – mosquitos aren’t strong fliers, which plays into why they mostly come out in dusk and dawn – the wind is less strong. If you keep the air blowing around you, the chances are you’ll be batting away a few of them.
A mosquito-free holiday
And, just in case you’re officially done with the malicious mozzies, it’s thought that there are 5 parts of the world free from mosquitos. If that sounds like your perfect getaway, take a trip to:
- New Caledonia
- French Polynesia
- The Seychelles