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Many travellers encounter mosquitoes or mosquitos (both spellings are correct) as they travel in warm and tropical climates. We have travelled for years, and our home base is full of mosquitos. This is what really works in avoiding mosquitos and their bites.
Mosquitoes carry diseases that you really want to avoid. If you thought too hard about malaria, Dengue Fever, Japanese encephalitis, Ross River fever, and West Nile Virus you’d probably never leave home.
Well, our old home was mosquito ridden, we lived in tropical Far North Queensland Australia and Dengue fever was an almost annual visitor. Most of the time we avoided the mosquitos because we didn’t want itchy bites that could become infected in the tropical heat, but sometimes, things got more serious.
We’ve travelled a lot too, 2 RTWs both mostly spent in Asia, including Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand. With two small children we were extra vigilant about avoiding mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.
We did pretty well at avoiding being bitten. Here are our best tips for how to avoid mosquitoes.
14 Tips For Avoiding Mosquitos
1. Know Your Enemy. Types of Mosquito to Avoid
There are almost 3,000 species of mosquito in the world. They come in different shapes and sizes and have different habits. They also carry different diseases.
You need to know that the Dengue fever mosquito, Aedes Aegypti, is active by day and likes cities and clean water to breed in.
Other mosquitos prefer dawn, dusk and a muddy puddle for their nursery. There is no truly safe time, you always need to be vigilant.
2. Check the Stats and Monitor Outbreaks of Dengue
Before you visit a country, check online to see if there are any current outbreaks of Dengue fever or other mosquito born diseases. If there are, reconsider your timing or be extra vigilant.
You should always check the malaria map for anywhere you think may be a risk. Click here for Thailand’s malaria map.
Back in Queensland we had maps like these to pinpoint Dengue outbreaks. Dengue mosquitos don’t fly far, so it’s possible to really pin down sources.
Countries such as Sri Lanka, Laos, Bali, even Far North Queensland have periodic, seasonal Dengue outbreaks where infection rates go through the roof. Check for current Dengue outbreaks and be super careful if you’re heading into one.
The recent Japanese Encephalitis media circus related to Bali was, on investigation, not fact related.
3. The Wet Season is the Worst.
The wet season in any country brings standing water, perfect for mosquito breeding. Avoid areas with standing water, even saucers under pot plants make good breeding grounds. Some mosquitoes breed in clear water, some muddy.
4. Dawn and Dusk are the Worst Times – Avoid
We used to call it Mozzie Time back home in Queensland. As darkness came in, the mozzies started biting and we’d retreat indoors. If you have to be outside, protect yourself well.
Living here was when we first learned how to avoid mosquitoes and 99% of the battle lies in our own behaviour. Don’t be outside at the worst time for mosquitoes and don’t allow them into your home.
5. Mosquito Proof Accommodation.
Look for rooms with screens, no open vents or air bricks. It’s quite common for bathrooms to have vents for steam to escape, if you find yourself in a room with vents make sure you keep the bathroom door shut.
We’ve blocked up vents with sarongs on occasion.
In Sri Lanka glass-less windows were common, we had wooden shutters only. Keep the shutters closed at the danger time to minimise risk.
Don’t leave lights on at night if there are vents. We learnt that the hard way, we woke to a bathroom clouded with little bloodsuckers one morning in Mirissa.
Air conditioning helps keep the mozzies at bay and keep your doors shut.
6. Mosquito Nets.
We carry a couple for emergencies and occasionally hotel rooms come with them fitted. We originally bought ours for village trekking in northern Thailand, they were absolutely essential there.
It’s important that no part of your body touches the net, they can bite through. Nets impregnated with permethrin actually kill them. Tuck nets in under your mattress to keep them tight and secure.
It’s possible to impregnate clothes with permethrin too, but I’ve never found it on sale.
7. Death to All Mozzies – Mosquito Killer
I often carry a can of mosquito killer spray to nuke rooms if there are any unwanted visitors. It’s not nice to breath, so do it as you’re going out the door. Make sure you spray under beds and behind curtains and cupboards, mosquitos like dark places.
In emergencies, if you just have one or two in your room and no spray, it’s easier to catch them in wet hands than dry. I have no idea why it works, but it does.
8. Avoid Shady Places.
Just as they like dusk and dawn, they love a bit of shade, particularly if there are plenty of hiding places in buildings or foliage.
We had a gorgeous little beach bungalow on Ko Phangan, but the mozzies loved hanging out under our patio in the darkness. We were mozzie magnets out there. We eventually beat them with sprays and coils, but we were much safer sitting elsewhere in the sea breeze.
9. Mosquito Coils or Incense.
Mosquitos find us by sensing our body heat and by “smelling” the CO2 we produce. Mosquito coils mostly work by camouflaging our presence. These smoky things have been linked to cancer so I’m not terribly keen on using them.
On Ko Phangan our local 7-11 sold coils that actually killed mozzies rather than putting them off the scent. These worked quite well under our shady deck, but I really wouldn’t want to breathe that stuff too often.
10. Mosquito Repellent.
Use it. DEET is often the most effective and in most “Jungle Strength” formulations. It’s powerful stuff and can only be used on children in low concentrations. I avoid it whenever possible.
DEET also dissolves plastics and synthetics, so don’t get it on your sunglasses, watch strap, non-natural fibers.
The products below are high strength, DEET packed ultra protective formulations. The mosquito repelent wipes are a particularly brilliant idea if you are flying in and need something in your carry – on bag for instant use.
We use natural or herbal citronella based potions more often, they seem to work just as well so long as you keep reapplying. The stuff they sell in Boots in Thailand seems to be particularly good, it’s in a yellow tube.
The mosquito repellents below are the best of the gentle bunch. The Skin So Soft cream has almost a cult following. I really wouldn’t be very happy using DEET on infants. Babyganics also make baby insect repellent wipes if you click through and take a look.
11. Wear Clothes.
This is only partially effective. Loose clothing that doesn’t touch your skin works fine, but I’ve watched mozzies bite my legs through tight jeans. It helps, but it’s not foolproof.
12. Put Your Feet Up.
I’ve heard this recommended elsewhere as being “what the locals do”. The theory is that mosquitos fly near to the ground so are less likely to fly up to a chair and find your toes. It can’t hurt to try, but I’m not convinced.
13. Mask Your Smell Through Diet.
There is evidence that mosquitos don’t like the smell of garlic. The more you eat, the more it seeps out of your skin, you can even rub it on or buy garlic sprays ( just check for any contra-indications or allergies first.)
Likewise, they’re said to hate the smell of B vitamins. I always dose up on Marmite to become one of those people that mozzies just don’t like. Unfortunately this theory has been tested and no evidence found to support it. But what the heck, do it anyway, Marmite is yum!
13. Don’t Wear Black
Mosquito magnets wear black. My husband , just this morning, had a swarm of mozzies following him up the road seemingly in love with his black T shirt.
Mosquitoes like dark shady places and your black T shirt looks good to them. How to keep mosquitoes away? Stick to light colours.
14. Don’t Forget to Protect Everywhere.
Once upon a time, in the jungles of Thailand, a lady fully covered in DEET had to use the restrooms. On disrobing, the mozzies were drawn like magnets to her nether regions and she was scratching for days. Let that be a warning!
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That’s it, that’s all the tricks and tips for avoiding mosquitos we know. The subject of mosquito avoidance came up recently and a reader asked for any tips we knew. We’ve had a lot of practice, but we always end up with a few bites, sometimes more than a few. Even if you decide to take antimalarials you still need to avoid the mozzies because of all the other diseases they carry. It’s a never-ending battle and one the mosquitos normally win. Good luck!