Avoiding bug bites while travelling

Bugs like mosquitoes, ticks and tsetse flies can give you diseases when they bite you. While mosquitoes in New Zealand don’t carry diseases, in other countries they can be dangerous.

The Safe Travel website has more detailed information about health risks overseas, including diseases like dengue or malaria that are carried by insects. Check their site for current health alerts.

Bugs to be aware of

  • Mosquitoes that carry malaria or Japanese encephalitis are more active in the evening and at night. If you’re travelling in an area that has these diseases, be especially vigilant at those times.  
  • Mosquitoes that carry dengue, yellow fever or Zika are more active in the daytime.
  • Tsetse flies are large flies found in mid-continental Africa, particularly in vegetated areas. Their bite can cause sleeping sickness.
  • Ticks flourish in warm, humid climates such as the Australian bush. They can carry many diseases.

How to avoid being bitten

Indoors

  • Use screens on doors and windows.
  • Use insect sprays.
  • Use mosquito coils.
  • Use a mosquito net over your bed at night. You can spray this with pesticide if you wish.
  • Turn on air conditioning if you have it – this is very effective at keeping mosquitoes out of a room.

Outdoors

  • Use insect repellent, preferably containing diethyltoluamide (DEET). High concentrations of DEET protect better, but concentrations over 35%  (about 350 g/L) are not recommended if there is a choice of products available. This is because in rare cases they can cause poisoning. Other products containing 20–25% picaridin (about 200–250 g/L) and those containing about 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus (equating to about 20% para-methane-diol (PMD)) can also be used. Repellents should not be applied to wounds, irritated skin, eyes or mouth.

  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats. Clothing can be treated with repellent.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing – ticks and other critters are more easily detected on a light background and tsetse flies are attracted to dark, contrasting colours.
  • Use zip-up screens on tents.
  • Avoid places where mosquitoes are most active, such as swampy areas.

Note that vitamin B doesn’t prevent mosquito bites.

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