With winter now firmly behind us, spring signals the start of the eagerly awaited holiday season. However, the warmer weather also brings with it a less desirable prospect – pesky mosquitos!
If you’ve ever been plagued by these annoying blood-sucking pests on holiday, you’ll know just how annoying the itching that follows a bite is, and how the ghastly blotchy lumps they leave all over newly sun-kissed arms and legs can really ruin the look of a beautiful suntan.
If you’re holidaying within Europe it’s very unlikely that the most dangerous consequence of mosquito bites, malaria, will affect you (although it’s not completely unheard of, it is extremely rare, and as such is dubbed “Airport Malaria” because the mosquitoes carrying it must have hitched a ride onboard an aircraft that was previously in an affected country). However, even if you are visiting a Malaria-free country, mosquito bites will still be something that you want to avoid.
With this in mind, below are some tips that may help keep them at bay and allow you to enjoy your holiday in peace:
1. Insect repellant spray
This is the most obvious and popular way to avoid getting bitten, probably because it is also considered to be the most effective. There are many good insect repellents available, some stronger than others and so not all are suitable for children, but what most have in common is that they contain DEET. Some people prefer not to use these strong repellents because they are concerned about the potential for skin irritation and also possible health risks associated with their use. No such risks have been conclusively proven, but some people prefer to err on the side of caution anyway and so for these people, there are now plenty of insect repellents marketed as “DEET free” available in High Street stores, meaning that there is a repellent for everyone. How effective a repellant is does tend to depend on how strong the active ingredient is though and how often it is applied, so if you are using a DEET free repellant, you may wish to take some other precautions as well.
The essential oil citronella is widely regarded as an effective natural repellant of mosquitoes. It also has a very pleasant citrus scent, so is much more appealing to use than some commercial insect repellant which can have quite an unpleasant smell. You can buy citronella-based insect repellant sprays branded as “Natural Insect Repellent” and frequently sold wherever DEET repellants are sold. You can also purchase pure essential citronella oil from a health shop and make your own repellants. You’ll find various “recipes” online for this. Be careful though: don’t put undiluted oil onto your skin, don’t put anything on broken skin or irritated skin, and discontinue use if any sensitivity occurs. Another very effective way of applying citronella oil for lasting protection is by mixing a small amount with your usual body cream or after sun lotion. Citronella candles are also available and are excellent for lighting and placing on your table if you are eating or drinking outside in the evenings.
3. Long-sleeved tops and long bottoms
It may sound obvious, but if you choose clothing which ensures your arms and legs are covered when you are out in the evening, you will significantly reduce the amount of bites you receive. This does not eliminate mosquito bites altogether of course, because they have been known to bite through thin clothing and even bite areas of the body which you cannot cover, such as eyelids! However, the more flesh you can cover in the evening, the fewer bites you find yourself with, so it is definitely worth bearing this in mind when deciding what to pack for your evening wear.
Avoiding bites when you are out in the evening is one thing, but many bites occur when you are in your hotel room. So, in order to reduce the number of bites you fall victim to whilst sleeping, the following tips may help:
4. Keep the bathroom door closed
Mosquitoes absolutely love humid conditions and are therefore find bathrooms extremely attractive. Keeping the bathroom window closed will help a great deal, but is not always practical if there is a lot of steam. You can however still avoid the mosquitoes that flock to your bathroom from biting you while you sleep by always remembering to close the bathroom door behind you and thus confining them to the bathroom only.
In some rooms, especially apartments and studios and a lot of budget hotels, air-conditioning is only available at extra cost. Some people do not like to pay a supplement for it and so think that they’ll just sleep with their balcony door open instead. Not only is this an inefficient way of keeping cool in hot climates, not to mention a security risk if you are on a lower floor, but it is also a recipe for disaster if mosquitoes are about as they will flock to you like a moth to a flame! Pay the extra for air-conditioning: you’ll not only be more comfortable because you’ll be cool at night, but it will also allow you to keep the door closed and so keep the mosquitoes out – a supplement worth paying for this reason alone!
Air-conditioning is obviously the best way to keep cool, but not all hotels/apartments have it and so a fan is not only a useful appliance to help keep you cool at night, but it is also excellent for keeping mosquitoes off of you while you sleep. They truly hate fans as they are literally blown away by them, thus making it impossible for them to land on you! Some hotels have fans available for hire, but if not and you are particularly prone to mosquito bites, you can either buy a cheap one while abroad, or pack a small one and take it with you if space permits. Plug it in next to the bed before going to sleep and as long as you can handle the noise, it will stop mosquitoes from getting anywhere near you.
Use one or more of these tips and have a great mosquito-free holiday!