Bugs and mosquitoes can be the undoing of a field mission, holiday or adventure travel. Malaria and insect-borne diseases are killers. Travel health means that travellers are prepared for preventing or managing illness and accidents while they are away from home. You start being travel healthy by planning and thinking through what to pack. Also at home base there are insects to consider. Knowing which ones they are can save you. Thinking bugs and mosquitoes won’t affect you is just plain silly. The strongest ox of a man can get turned into a whimpering mess in a matter of hours when these minuscule death squads are on a prowl. The GOODista looks at how to keep bugs and mosquitoes away, which repellents work, and on-line resources you need to plan your next travel or outdoor fun.
Bugs and Mosquitoes: Irritating and Deadly
If you live in countries where Malaria and tropical insect borne diseases are common, you know how easy it is to get very sick, very fast, from bugs and mosquitoes. A sore throat in Sweden is nothing, whereas if you get one in Kenya your Doctor is likely to also run tests for insect borne and tropical diseases.
If your home base is what you perceive to be a safe zone, you might want to think again. Lyme disease / Borrelia is very common in the northern hemisphere, and knowing how to protect yourself and your family is important.
Travel health means that travellers are prepared for preventing or managing illness and accidents while they are away from home. It may involve ensuring a traveller understands the various health risks in their destination and knows how to avoid or minimise the risks.
Before setting of on any travel, or outdoor activity, it makes sense to check what insects are likely to be present there. The simple reason is that while a great tan is the preferred target for a holiday, or climbing Kilimanjaro for the adventure of it – no tan nor climb will be worth getting sick over, if you can prevent it.
Insects are part of our everyday existence, and for the most part they are fascinating to look at. They can be irritating, give you an itchy bite and perhaps also scare you if you are that way inclined. However – for as much as you want to be a ‘viking’ about creepy-crawlies there are facts that cannot be denied. Some insect, bugs and mosquitoes can cause harm. There is no reason to not go out, or cancel your travels, but the more you know the better you can prepare yourself.
Bugs and Mosquitoes: Which Ones Where
Insects come is all shapes, forms and colours. They are beautiful to look at for the most part, yet come with unwanted gifts. (check out the links below for details)
- Mosquitoes: While the irritating noise of a mosquito in Sweden can give you an itchy bite, the sister in Africa will carry malaria (Anopheles), chikungunya virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis.
- Flies: Transmit microorganisms that infiltrate the skin, and their bites are not always felt. You can contract sleeping sickness and leishmaniasis. There is a good reason why all undergarments should be ironed carefully (the seam especially) when you are in countries where these flies exist.
- Bed bugs: Give nasty bites, and can also give you sleeping sickness. Most cases are identified on the South American continent. Bed bugs are present in damp surroundings, and active only at night.
- Lice and fleas: Present world-wide and are carriers of bacterial infectors and typhoid. The black death or plague was attributed to rat fleas.
- Ticks: Live everywhere, and are especially common in grasslands, and forest areas. Ticks carry numerous diseases which are specific to habitat and climate. In Europe and America Lyme disease is common. And in other parts of the world tick-borne meningoencephalitis, Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, Q fever, the tick-borne spotted fevers, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia have been registered as coming from tick bites. When thinking of an outdoor activity like camping or walking it is good to know that ticks do not begin to feed until 12 to 24 hours have passed and so the risk of infection is low if they are quickly removed. Check below for tips regarding tick safety. (source: CMETE )
Tip: Check out these excellent links for more detailed information about types of insects and known insect borne diseases:
- Diseases transmitted by insects and ticks – Medial centre specialised in travel health
- Insect Borne Diseases – The Travel Doctor
Bugs and Mosquitoes: Repellents, Drugs and Common Sense
Travel health means prevention. Knowing that you can get food poisoned is a given, and that water isn’t always safe is also something a traveller all think of. That bugs and mosquitoes can bring harm is probably well-known too – but many seem to forget about them once they land in their destination.
You should think about this already while planning and packing for your travels. To start off with think about what you need as a general travel health kit, and then surf the web for which bugs and mosquitoes exist in your destination.
Tip: Check this site against your destination, and special conditions (allergies, pregnancy, children etc): Travellers’ Health (Centre for Disease Control, US).
Your destination will decide you which vaccinations you need – and also what to pack specifically. The good thing is that the most common forms of smart protection comes in clever travel packaging these days.
Insect, Bug and Mosquito Prevention Tips
- Malaria is a killer. It is one of the most vicious forms of virus that can make someone very ill within hours. The most extra ordinary thing is that many don’t take enough precaution. The best way is to use insect repellent – which must contain DEET, Picaridin, Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), PMD or IR3535. You can ask your pharmacist, but OFF! or Autan are recommended. Spray to cover yourself fully, as mosquitoes bite through clothing and are especially active at dusk or dawn.
- A Malaria prophylactic is advisable, and you must check with your Doctor which s/he recommends. For more detailed information about Malaria check this site: CDC on Malaria.
- Protect yourself at night from bugs and mosquitos. Getting a net is the best way. This must be a treated insect net, and they come in small travel friendly packaging.
- Wear sensible clothing. High cut tops and mini shorts are culturally insensitive in any case, but are also very unwise as they leave too much bare skin for insects to attack. Long sleeves and trouser, as well as a hat as it also gives protection against sun exposure.
- Ticks and flees can give nasty bites and unwelcome disease – however hygiene and common sense enter here. Take a credit card sized tick remover with you. Before any outdoor activity make sure to wear sensible foot wear and long socks, as well as a hat. Ticks and fleas like folds, i.e arm pits, groin area, stomach etc. Therefore after any outdoor or camping adventure make sure to wash, and check yourself and your kids for any ticks. If you take away a tick within 12 hours the risk of infection is low. Here is how to remove a tick safely: Tick Removal.
- Always carry a general insect spray to use in your hotel or lodging. Spray everywhere – under the bed, the bathroom, around the curtains and window sill. Make it a rule to always spray before your leave the room, and please don’t open windows unless they have netting.
- Put on the air-conditioning – if this exists. The lower temperature, and dryness is less attractive bugs and mosquitoes. In a tropical climate you will probably want it anyway, but if you belong to the category of people who hates air-condition remember the added insect prevention that you get from it.
- Be aware of time of day. It is so tempting to lounge around in swimwear long into the evening, and while you’re having fun you are also inviting unwelcome attention from bugs and mosquitoes. Think about the long-term effects of that extra drink by the pool, and I am not talking about the tipsiness factor. Make a routine to leave before dusk – shower, spray yourself in insect repellent, and put on longer clothes – then have that drink – OK? 🙂
- If you do get a bite, or fall sick, time is of the essence. Don’t wait and see! Visit a medical clinic asap. Before you travel book a visit with your Doctor. Also make sure that your travel health and medical insurance is up to date, and valid for your destination. Some credit card companies give excellent travel insurance, so check what your card can provide. If you about to go on a field mission or work as a contractor you may have to get your own insurance – in which case you can save a lot of money by comparing options with an international health insurance broker. Going to a Doctor is not something you should save on – and with good health coverage you get added peace of mind.
- If you are setting of to join a humanitarian aid effort, the medical check up prior to leaving must be geared towards frequent contact with local populations, remote living conditions and hardship medical issues. Do contact your organization and get their recommendations, and pack smartly.
Bugs and Mosquitoes: Tropical Thunder and Northern Lights
Bugs and mosquitoes are countless, and so fascinating in many ways. They live all around the world. The insect borne diseases are something that shouldn’t stop you from travel, adventure and outdoor fun. However, the temptation to have a bit too much fun is often what can make you sick.
Knowing is the best way to prepare yourself and being prepared is what saves you. Taking precautions is smart and mature. By protecting yourself you will be fit for your mission, and remain able to contribute. The holiday maker will come home happy, and able to plan for their next vacation. The unwise may not travel ever again….
The most important part of travelling is preparedness, as it keeps us reasonable safe and sound. Not knowing – or thinking you know – creates unnecessary anxiety and risk. Read up, make your Doctors appointment, plan your packing and make sure that your travel health kit is complete.
If you like information about travel health, wellness and how to Feel, Be and Do Good follow The GOODista – Sign up below.
Recommended and Related:
- Common Travel Health Topics – CDC
- World Map of Insect Borne Diseases – CVBD
- Insect Avoidance Information for Travellers – NaTHNaC
- International Travel and Health – World Health Organisation
- What Caused This Bug Bite? 10 Common Types, Pictures and Symptoms – Healthline
- Mosquito Feeding Habits – Mosquito World
- Remote Location Travel Advice – Patient
- Travel Health Books by Amazon.co.uk :
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