Mosquitoes and other biting insects and arthropods are found worldwide, especially in tropical areas. Although most bites only result in nuisance symptoms (local itching, swelling and pain), it is important to avoid insects as much as possible due to the numerous infections they can spread. While malaria and dengue fever are some of the most common infections spread by mosquitoes in much of the tropical world, there are numerous other infections that are potential risks, such as Chikungunya, West Nile fever, Zika fever and tick-borne infections.
To minimize your risk of insect bites, pack insect repellent for use during travel. For travel in tropical areas, we recommend products containing 25% to 35% DEET or 15% to 20% picaridin as the active ingredient. Follow instructions on the containers for the best results, and remember that water and perspiration reduce the effectiveness of repellents. Long sleeves, slacks and socks are also of some benefit, especially if you plan to be outside between dusk and dawn in an areas known to have malaria Tucking the bottoms of slacks into socks can be helpful as well if walking through bush. In addition, screened windows and the use of mosquito netting over your sleeping quarters are highly recommended if you are not sleeping in an enclosed, air-conditioned area. If you have an infant, bring netting that will fit over his or her stroller or carrier. Since mosquitoes can bite through clothing and netting, treatment of clothing and mosquito nets with permethrin (either self-applied or pre-treated) can add further protection. Permethrin treatments, available at travel and outdoor supply stores, can repel and kill insects that come in contact with treated clothing. If you participate in outdoor activities, do a “tick check” nightly and remove any that have made their way onto your skin. You may not have noticed or felt their bite.
Herbal products that have been formulated as insect repellents are generally not recommended for protection against disease-transmitting mosquitoes.