Since I was I kid, I always seemed to be the one getting attacked by mosquitos. Even now, I get swarmed whenever they are around. It didn’t seem to make sense, but I suspected that there might be a biological explanation. After doing some research on how to avoid mosquito bites, I found that mosquitos are scientifically known to be attracted to specific blood types. Type O blood was listed as being the most attractive to mosquitos — which is awesome since I am O+.
Mosquitos are also attracted to a lot of things: carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and the bacteria in our sweat. A person’s biology can greatly influence how strongly these factors are present in our daily life. I’m convinced that I must have an extremely high combination of all these biological factors, as they also seem to always find me.
On our recent trip to Mexico, I found myself getting completely swarmed. This was especially the case when I didn’t have any repellent on my body. It was awful! For some reason, my bites tend to swell too, so it looked like I got into a fight. It certainly made parts of the trip uncomfortable.
Not only are mosquito bites annoying, uncomfortable, and totally gross, but they can also transmit diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and Zika. In order to protect yourself, here are our top ten tips for dealing with mosquitos while traveling.
1. Use insect repellent:
There are a ton of repellents on the market. Most have DEET or Picaridin, which are both effective insecticides and repellents. When looking at repellents, you will want to focus primarily on the concentration of either DEET or Picaridin. Obviously, the higher the concentration, the more effective the repellent. Though be wary of the toxicity with comes with the higher concentration.
There are also some products with essential oils like citronella and tea tree oil. These seem to have some effect. Though in my experience, these are just not as effective as the insecticide-based repellents.
My personal favorite is Ultrathon. I used it when I served in the military, and it seems to work the best for me. It contains 34% DEET, so it’s very strong and not the most comfortable stuff to wear. It smells unnatural and makes my skin sticky. However, when faced with swarms of mosquitos, it seems to keep them away. It’s a lotion instead of a spray, so I’m able to cover more areas of my body. Also, I like that the small tube is travel-friendly and can easily be carried in my daypack.
While I prefer lotions over sprays, you can use sprays to apply repellent to your clothing. I know that I tend to get bitten on my back through my shirt. I’ll often spray the shoulders and back side of my shirt as an extra precaution.
2. Wear loose-fitting clothes or synthetic sports fabrics:
Mosquitos can still get you through most clothing, so you may want to consider clothing that isn’t so tight. Also, most synthetic fibers, like the ones found in athletic apparel, tend to be woven tightly enough to keep mosquitos out. A good trick to know is that if the garment offers sun protection, then it likely blocks mosquito bites.
3. Avoid being out at dusk and dawn:
If possible, try to avoid these peak hours for feeding. Though if you’re in a tropical setting, mosquitos can be quite active at all hours of the day.
4. Wear lighter colors:
Mosquitos are known to be attracted to contrasting colors. Wearing light colors can make it more difficult for mosquitos to identify you.
5. Avoid areas with standing water:
This can be tough, since you often can’t control the environment when traveling. Be extra cautious in places where there might be lots of moisture and standing water. This includes areas affected by rain or flooding. This is the ideal location for mosquitos to reproduce and multiply.
6. Use a mosquito net:
If you’re in a location where you’re at risk of being attacked while you sleep, consider using a mosquito net. I used one when I traveled through the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. I basically tucked the ends under my mattress so mosquitos couldn’t get in. A lot of places will have them available if it’s a problem. Though it never hurts to call ahead and find out whether your hotel or hostel has them available. If you need to one while traveling or camping, then you can buy one prior to your trip at little cost.
7. Shower regularly & wear fresh clothes:
Since mosquitos are attracted to the bacteria in our sweat, it’s important to shower and change your clothes regularly. If you’re traveling light, then consider having your clothes cleaned through the hotel or a local laundry shop.
8. Sit around smoke or look for a breeze:
If all else fails, and you happen to be around a fire, use the smoke to repel the mosquitos. It’s the most natural way to block them and has been used for centuries as a deterrent. Also, it’s harder for mosquitos to land on your body if you are in an area with a breeze. Even a slight wind can make it hard for mosquitos to attack you.
9. Avoid scratching the bites:
This is a tough one! Whenever I get bitten, I feel like my body not only gets itchy, it becomes completely sensitive to everything. It’s like my body goes into high alert and wants to protect itself against other bites. However, scratching only increase the inflammation and irritation.
10. Get medications when traveling in high-risk areas:
Diseases like malaria and Japanese Encephalitis are transmitted via mosquitos, so it’s best to check the travel conditions and recommendations prior to your trip. I recommend checking the CDC website to see the US government’s recommendations for travelers.
Lastly, I’ve seen mosquito repellent bracelets and patches that are soaked in natural and chemical repellents. I’m not going to recommend them since I haven’t tried them and can’t vouch for their effectiveness. Though if you’re looking for another layer of protection, it might be worth trying. However, I would only use it in addition to the tips suggested above.
Do you have any tips or experiences dealing with mosquitos? If so, please share them below in the comment section.
- “Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others?” (Smithsonian Magazine)
- “Picaridin vs DEET: Which is the Best Insect Repellent” (AMC Outdoors)
- “Avoid Mosquito Bites” (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)