If you’re spending time outdoors on your international vacation this summer, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll have to put up with the buzzing of mosquitoes. However, mosquitoes go far beyond just an annoyance. They can carry over a dozen different diseases. Some of these can make you quite sick, and others can be deadly.
Prevention and preparedness are the only ways to reduce the risk. So, before you jet off on a trip abroad, be sure you’ve taken the proper precautions to ward off mosquitoes and the diseases they carry with these tips:
Medications and Vaccines for Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Although not all mosquito-borne illnesses can be prevented with medication, some of the deadliest ones can. For serious diseases such as Dengue fever, yellow fever, and malaria, preventative vaccines and medications are available in parts of the world. Your best course of action is to talk to your healthcare provider before departing your home country. Tell them where you’re planning to travel, and they can determine which vaccines or medications you should be given to protect yourself.
Effective Mosquito Repellents
For certain mosquito-borne illness such as Zika virus, there is currently no vaccine. The best way to protect yourself from illness due to Zika or any mosquito-borne disease is by reducing your chances of a bite with an effective mosquito repellent. Mosquito repellents with the following active ingredients are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency, and are proven safe and effective by government health agencies all over the world:
- Picaridin (may be referred to as icaridin or KBR 3023 in some nations)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
If you’re curious as to which mosquito repellent is right for you, we recommend using the EPA’s repellent search tool.
Regardless of which repellent you choose, make sure to follow the instructions for use exactly as printed on the label, and reapply as directed. Never spray mosquito repellent on your skin underneath clothing. If you’re wearing sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first, and then the repellent after.
Natural Mosquito Repellents
Although you or your parents may have an old family remedy for warding off mosquitoes using natural ingredients, an international trip is not the time to test it out. Mosquitoes in different parts of the world behave differently, and carry different diseases. It is always best to use a repellent that’s approved and recommended by an official government health organization.
Dress to Repel Mosquitoes
In addition to repellent, the way you dress can have a big impact on the number of bites you receive. Always wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in areas with high mosquito concentrations. You should also remember to treat your clothing, shoes, socks, and hats with permethrin, an insecticide that wards off and kills mosquitoes. Permethrin treatments can fade after you wash clothes a certain number of times, so be sure to read the product label to know when you should reapply it.
Choose Mosquito-Safe Accommodations
When traveling to a mosquito-prone area, be sure that your lodging is equipped with air conditioning, or screens on all windows and doors. If this isn’t possible, bring along a mosquito net to drape over your bed. The mosquito net should be WHOPES (World Health Organization Pesticide Evaluation Scheme)-approved, have 156 holes per square inch, and be long enough to tuck under your mattress on all sides. Some mosquito nets are treated with permethrin, and can provide additional protection.
Protect Yourself with Travel Health Insurance
Even if you take every precaution, it’s still possible contract a mosquito-borne illness when traveling abroad. Depending upon the illness, the resulting effects can range from mild to severe. It is possible that you will need professional medical treatment, or even hospitalization. In this case, it’s essential to have travel medical insurance or travel insurance.
Many countries that are afflicted with serious mosquito-borne illnesses have substandard public healthcare facilities. To get necessary treatment in a timely manner, a private hospital may be your best option. However, private healthcare can be extremely expensive, so it’s important to have travel medical insurance to shield you from the bulk of the bill.
Along with vaccines, repellents, and proper clothing, consider international insurance another important tool in your fight to prevent mosquito-borne illness. Although insurance cannot stop you from contracting a virus, it can ensure that you have access to the treatment you need without being subject to an unaffordable bill.