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World Mosquito Day: how to avoid a mosquito bite

23 August 2018

World Mosquito Day, observed annually on August 20th each year, is a commemoration and celebration of the groundbreaking scientific discovery in 1897 that female mosquitos both carry and transmit malaria between humans. Sir Ronald Ross, a British medical doctor who was working in India when he first discovered the malarial parasite in the stomach of a mosquito, received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902 for his extensive and groundbreaking work on the subject. His findings were pivotal and laid the foundations for the pioneering work of the many scientists and researchers who followed him. Today, World Mosquito Day exists to celebrate the landmark scientific discovery, raise awareness about the diseases transmitted by mosquitos and precautions that can be taken, and raise money for imperative medical research that will hopefully lead to a solution.

While World Mosquito Day is often centred around raising awareness for malaria, there are a number of other high-risk, unpleasant diseases that can be spread by a simple mosquito bite, including dengue, yellow fever, the Zika virus and Chikungunya. Even in areas that these deadly diseases are not carried a mosquito bite is extremely unpleasant, causing itchy skin, redness and in rare cases an allergic reaction that can cause aches and a fever. Unfortunately, there are few places in the world where mosquitoes don't exist at all, though there are certain destinations where they are larger in number and carry more deadly diseases. Mosquitoes thrive in warm and tropical climates, with the majority of mosquito-borne diseases occurring across Africa, Asia and South America; indeed, 90% of deaths caused by malaria in the world today occur in Africa. If you are planning a holiday to an area where mosquitos are prevalent, read on to discover some precautions that you can take.

Do your research

Firstly, and most importantly, it is imperative that you conduct the appropriate research into your chosen destination in order to determine the level of precautions that you may need to take. The internet is an incredible source of information, with official government websites offering a plethora of destination-specific travel advice related to all things health and safety.  GOV.UK and NHS.UK are excellent starting points if you are seeking information regarding vaccinations, health care abroad and other preventative measures.

Ask your doctor

If in any doubt, it's always best to ask your doctor or local health care provider for advice. Depending on the destination you're visiting and the activities you will be enjoying once you arrive there, a vaccination or suitable medication may be required for you to travel. Remember, in high-risk countries, outdoor excursions such as safari trips or visits to remote rural areas will increase your likelihood of requiring a vaccine and/or anti-malaria medication. 

Use insect repellent

Perhaps one of the simplest and most effective solutions is to pack insect repellent when you travel. Look for one that contains DEET, preferably with a concentration of 30% or higher for general travel, and at least 50% when travelling to humid, tropical countries where mosquitoes may be a more widespread issue. Insect repellents can be found in your local pharmacy or supermarket, and come in a multitude of forms, including sprays, creams, sticks and roll-ons. Apply generously to any exposed areas of skin, and reapply carefully throughout the day. Insect repellents can also be purchased in a plug-in form, which release repellent slowly into the air - an ideal option for your hotel room.

Dress appropriately

If you are concerned about mosquito bites, opt for clothing that will cover up any large areas of exposed skin. A long-sleeved cotton shirt and loose fitting long trousers will offer you protection from mosquitoes, while also helping you stay cool in the tropical heat. Choose covered shoes instead of sandals or flip-flops, and avoid loose-fitting sleeves that mosquitos may be able to fly into. Finally, a somewhat little-known fact is that mosquitoes are more attracted to dark colours, so choose light shades of white, cream or khaki for added protection.