Travel Health:
Mosquito Advice

"Why did it bite me....again?!"

"Mosquito advice" was last updated on Dec 18, 2011
All information below is subject to change

Mosquitoes, © Ramalho Tupinamba

Why mosquitoes bite some people more than others is still an ongoing discussion in science.

Mosquitoes have these complex methods when choosing its victims. So, no product works on every mosquito type.

You might sometimes wonder why they're so important to the food chain... Because all they do is suck and feed, suck and feed.

But to other insects, they are of course food. African spiders, some special fish, and lizards eat mosquitoes.

Since this site is about Asia, malaria- and dengue mosquitoes are the highlights of this article!

Note: And have in mind that even though you follow the advice in this article, it's not 100 % guaranteed that they keep you bite-free. But the tips will prepare you!

Now, let's move on to the
mosquito advice:

What's DEET?

DEET is a common ingredient in insect repellents.

You can find DEET concentration up to 100%. It prevents mosquitoes, ticks, leeches and certain flies from sucking your blood! DEET masks the smell that mosquitoes love, it doesn't kill them.

But too high concentration of DEET can cause skin damages. Research shows that DEET greater than 50% is no better than below 50%. So, the ideal percentage seems to be between 30-50%.

Whatever you choose, use repellents with DEET according to its instructions!

  • The obvious part: Wear mosquito repellent with DEET: You can find sprays, wipes, coils etc.

Where should I apply the mosquito repellent?

You should apply it to your whole body, in my opinion!

But it's commonly known that mosquitoes especially like ankles and wrists.

  • Suggested time of application:
    Malaria mosquitoes are usually active at sunrise and sunset, while dengue mosquitoes are active all day. In other words, you have to use repellent all the time when you're outdoors!

But you should also apply repellent when you go to sleep, especially in a room with no air-con. Mosquitoes like hot air.

And budget bungalows usually have holes and cracks in their thin walls or roofs. And this is the passage for all insects, not just mosquitoes!

If there's a mosquito net in your room (typically budget bungalows), check if it has ripped holes when you arrive the first day.

If it's ripped, you should ask the staff to replace it. Or you can fix the holes yourself, by stuffing paper, socks or alike. If it's a larger hole in the net, I use a rubber band to tie the hole.

Spray inside the holes of the walls, and under the bed before your bed-time.

  • If you want to apply sun lotion and repellent at the same time, start with the sun lotion, wait 15-20 minutes then apply the repellent.

If you sweat or get wet, you have to re-apply!

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Mosquito Advice - Clothes

  • You should wear light, loose-fitting clothes because it seems like mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors (dark blue, black, dark brown, dark green etc).
  • You can buy clothes that are already dipped in DEET, but the effect will wear out after a couple of times with washing.
  • In the evenings when you go out, or in the middle of the nights, wear long, loose pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • If possible, treat your clothing with mosquito repellent.

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Other Mosquito Advice and Tips

  • Mosquitoes seem to be attracted to sweat, so take a shower at least once a day. Preferably before you go out in the evening.
  • Avoid wearing perfume, colognes, scented shampoos or deodorants.
  • Lock or screen windows before you go to sleep
  • It is said that mosquitoes bite people who drinks alcohol or have alcohol in their system. But you shouldn't take that too seriously, because the experts' opinions on this subject are not clear. No people have the same genes or blood, and therefore the mosquitoes seem to react differently.

I tested out this alcohol-theory on Koh Phi Phi Island and I still got bitten!

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Mosquito Advice: Citronella

  • Citronella is well-known for repelling mosquitoes, and seem to be the best organic repellent you can find in the market. You can find citronella as:

- Citronella soap (use it for daily use)

- Citronella candles

- Citronella lotions

- Citronella sprays

You can buy citronella products at drug- and travel stores. But remember that buying them in Asia is a lot cheaper than at home.

  • Mosquito repellent bracelets have turned up in the market. They contain DEET and citronella. I bought a 10-pack for my trip to India in 2011, and wore them around my wrists and ankles.

I didn't get bitten that much around these areas, but it's hard to know if it was due to the bracelets.

They were supposed to last for a couple of weeks, but I had to change bracelets every once in a week.

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Mosquito Advice:
What if you get bitten?


If you have to give in, slap your skin gently rather than using your nails. Nails have bacteria!

I'll tell you a scary story...

I scratched a mosquito bite on my right foot for days, and it turned into a nasty, infected wound.

Then I had to go to the hospital because my right foot swelled up so much that it couldn't fit my shoe. I was diagnosed with skin infection (streptococcus as they call it).

According to the doctors, I was too hard on a mosquito bite, that bacteria eventually found their way into my blood. I could have died from blood poisoning if there weren't no antibiotics. This was not in Asia, but in my homecountry Norway, so you can just imagine what the consequences would be if I was in Asia.

  • Apply antiseptic cream or aloe vera if it itches like h***. Aloe Vera soothes the skin!

Click here to read tips on what Medical Supplies to bring for your backpacking trip.

  • If you feel unwell or get a fever after a while, go to a local doctor.

For Dengue, the symptoms usually start 5-7 days after you've been bitten.

When it comes to malaria, the symptoms will show between 7-30 days.

Need more tips?

This article is a taste of what you can expect in my eBook "Ticket to Safe Backpacking." In this eBook, you'll find common safety and health issues, how to avoid scams while backpacking and much more.

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