How to prevent getting bitten

The first line protection for the traveller against any insect borne disease is not getting bitten in the first place.

The risk of contracting certain diseases varies with location of your accommodation and for those travelling to rural areas certain risks increase. It is also worth noting that Malaria is not the only disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes - Dengue Fever is becoming increasingly more common in tropical climates.

Female Anopheles mosquitoes carry malaria and infect people by biting them in order to feed. Anopheles mosquitoes are nocturnal feeders hence malaria transmission occurs primarily between dusk and dawn. Travellers are advised to take protective measures to reduce contact with mosquitoes, especially during these hours.

Preventative measures include:

  • Remaining in well-screened areas, using insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Mosquito nets should be impregnated with permethrin. For a net to be effective, it needs to be impregnated with permethrin at least every six months or whenever it is washed. While sand flies will be able to get through the holes, but by landing on a net that is impregnated, they will be killed.
  • Wearing clothes that cover most of the body. Keep your legs and arms covered with clothing to lower risk of bites on the skin. Avoid wearing dark colours, as they can attract mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are able to bite through many materials but canvas mosquito boots and thick denim jeans will make it more difficult in rural areas, where the risks are always the greatest.
  • Additionally, travellers should be advised to purchase insect repellent for use on exposed skin. The most effective repellent against a wide range of vectors is DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide), which is the primary ingredient in many commercially available insect repellents. The actual concentration of DEET varies widely among repellents. DEET formulations as high as 50% are recommended for both adults and children >2 months of age.
  • Use a 'knock-down' spray in the evening to get rid of mosquitoes before going to sleep.
  • Avoid strong perfumes, hair sprays or after-shaves as they can attract mosquitoes!
  • Use air-conditioning if it is available. Air conditioning helps keep the mosquitoes away due to the lower temperature, it is important that it is left on all day and that the windows or shutters are not left open at night!
  • Try to avoid evening walks beside rivers and ponds as this is where mosquitoes breed.

Mosquitoes tend to respond to light in their feeding habits, some preferring daylight, others darkness. Malaria mosquitoes usually prefer low light hours after dusk until dawn. Dengue mosquitoes' peak biting times are the few hours before dusk and the few hours after dawn and are present during the day light hours. Sleeping in a lit room may deter malaria mosquitoes form coming too close

While malaria mosquitoes feed between dusk and dawn, other types of mosquitoes carrying different diseases bite at other times of day so it is important to protect yourself all the time. Other biting insects include the small sand fly, which is capable of spreading Leishmaniasis in certain locations; ticks, which are responsible for diseases such as Lymes disease; and mites which can cause scabies; as well as many other different species.