There’s a truism that goes something like: “If you think you're too small to make a difference, you clearly haven't spent a night with a mosquito …”
That about says it all. Mosquitoes are teeny little insects that cause great annoyance, lack of sleep, awful itchiness, serious illnesses and, in some cases, death. (Malaria is one of the biggest causes of deaths in sub-Saharan Africa). Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted via the bite from an infected female Anopheles mosquito.
For their size, mosquitoes are effectively the deadliest creatures on Earth!
The 9 Nasty Facts:
- Only female mosquitoes bite when they’re ready to reproduce – both sexes normally prefer a diet of flower nectar.
- Mosquitoes generally prefer to bite men.
- Mosquitoes can zero in on the carbon dioxide from your breath and skin from almost 23 metres (98 feet) away.
- Overweight people and pregnant women are more at risk as they produce more carbon dioxide.
- Conversely, mosquitoes are attracted to sweat and body odour as well as flowery scents from perfumes, soaps and toiletries.
- Movement and heat attract mosquitoes.
- Scientists have found that genetics account for a staggering 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites.
- Certain elements found in excess on your skin, like lactic acid, attract mosquitoes.
- One in 10 of us is a walking ‘mosquito magnet’.
The 12 Avoidance Tactics:
- Take extra care when the sun sets, mosquitoes are busiest at dusk.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes in earthy, neutral colours like khaki and beige. It’s accepted that dark colours, especially black and navy, attract mosquitoes and other insects.
- Wherever possible, cover up and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants or skirts, especially at dusk and dawn. Less skin exposed = less areas to bite!
- Make use of mosquito nets, window and door screens and so on provided by your lodge – they are great protection.
- Shower more frequently to ward off mosquitoes attracted by sweat and body odours.
- Avoid using highly-scented, floral fragrant toiletries which also attract them.
- Use repellent sprays and lotions, always more effective than stick applicators, containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) - still the most effective way to prevent mosquito bites. Reapply every several hours.
- Other aromatic oils and candles can deter, but have yet not been proven to prevent bites, eg citronella oil, eucalyptus oils, tea tree oils, vinegar, garlic.
- If you’re applying sunscreen, do that first, then apply the insect repellent over it.
- When in your lodge room, close the door and window screens to stop mosquitoes and other insects moving in with you.
- When you’re not in your room at night, rather leave the lights off so as not to attract these unwanted guests.
- Electric fans provide double protection– they confuse mosquitoes as they blow away the carbon dioxide that attracts them and they cannot fly in the air currents caused by them, even when on low speed.
To sum up:
While it’s always recommended to take malaria prophylaxis (Netcare Travel Clinics have great up-to-date info) when visiting high-risk areas – especially if it’s your first ‘exposure’ – first prize is always to simply avoid being bitten in the first place.
Do you know of any other ways to prevent mosquitoes from biting you? Or was there something you found worked better? Please share with us in the comments below.
By 19 Jun 2014,