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Preventing insect bites whilst travelling

Written by Caidr's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 26.01.2023 | 3 min read

Preventing insect bites whilst travelling is always at the front of peoples minds, especially when travelling to far flung corners of the earth. But what is the best way to do it? Are certain products better than others? In this article Caidr’s expert travel pharmacists will explain everything you need to know to get you fully informed and put your mind at ease!

The reality is that some mosquitoes carry severe diseases, and so rather than the annoyance whilst on holiday in Ibiza – it may be a medical imperative that you do everything to avoid receiving a bite. Because different mosquitoes carry different diseases, and they all fly at different times of day, in some areas it may be necessary to use insect repellents day and night. Insect repellents have been around for nearly a century and the most effective of these is the product DEET (the active ingredient in most common repellant products). Other products include picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Are bites and stings fully preventable?

No product will fully prevent you from being bitten. The most important points to note with all products are how frequently they are applied and the amount that should be used. Follow the product instructions and regularly apply any bite protection product remembering to use it at day and night if you are wanting protection from all species of mozzies.

How and when do I apply insect repellent?

Use a 50% DEET based repellent or if preferred the highest strength of picaridin available. 50% DEET provides the maximum level of protection, higher strengths of DEET do not give any more protection, although they do provide the benefit that you can leave longer between applications. When using with a sunscreen always apply sunscreen first, let it dry and then apply repellent to the surface. Products with a combined sunscreen and insect repellent have been found to have lower sunscreen protection – so we would go for separate products.

Are bites and stings prevention more important if I am pregnant?

Certain diseases that are spread by mosquitoes and insects can cause additional complications to people who are pregnant – such as malaria and zika virus. If you are pregnant or consider you may be pregnant then consult your midwife or travel health specialist before jumping on the plane. DEET can be used by pregnant women, in breast feeding women and infants over the age of 2 months.

What other methods can I use to effectively reduce being bitten?

Other tips to help reduce your risk of getting bitten by mosquitos include spraying permethrin onto clothing and equipment (but avoiding your skin). Permethrin kills mosquitoes on contact and is an effective method of bite reduction. When outside, long- sleeved clothing and trousers, are good all barriers of clothing that can be used especially against night-time flying insects. Use a bed net whilst sleeping and turn on any fans or air conditioning that move the air around. Turn down any temperature controls to the lowest setting because mosquitos become inactive in cooler temperatures and cannot survive at temperatures much lower than 15 degrees celsius.

There are many claims of homeopathic treatments and herbal remedies such as geranium, eucalyptus, rose, citronella, tea-tree, garlic, vitamin B, alcohol being used as insect repellents. There is no evidence these are effective. There are no recommended homeopathic remedies for bite prevention that are endorsed by reputable homeopathic organisations.

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