Important Note: I am not a medical doctor and do not have any medical experience. The information provided in this article on how to avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses I got directly from the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from my personal healthcare provider. I am providing you this information to help bring awareness of the necessary precautions you should take to protect your health, but consultation of my guide should not replace a discussion about your travels with your doctor or a travel medical clinic.
The tropical regions of the world are some of the most beautiful and life-filled regions on the planet. Because of this, many of the world’s most popular travel destinations are located in tropical regions of the world. As fun and incredible as these regions are to explore, they are also filled with dangers that you won’t find in the more temperate regions of the globe. Among these dangers are insect and other biting vectors that can transmit serious illnesses such as Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, African Tick-bite Fever, and other insect-transmitted diseases. That is why you must learn how to avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses when traveling to tropical regions where these diseases are endemic.
In this article, I am going to provide you with ten easy-to-follow tips that will help you avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses when traveling. These tips, along with the guidance and expertise you receive from your healthcare provider, will go a long way in ensuring that you remain safe from a serious illness while exploring the world’s most incredible tropical regions. As always, if you have any additional tips or advice that you would like to offer to other travelers, I encourage you to leave a comment in the comments section below. Not only am I eager to hear how you avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses when traveling, but I am sure other travelers who read this article would greatly appreciate it as well.
NOTE: This guide for avoiding tick and mosquito-borne illnesses references to products on my Amazon Store site. I may receive a commission when you purchase these products from my store, though at no additional cost to you. I hand-pick and recommend only the products that I am either familiar with or comfortable recommending.
Research Your Destination Before Traveling
One of the most important ways that you can help avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses when you travel is to research the destinations you are visiting before you travel. Using resources like the website for the Centers for Disease Control in the United States can give you an invaluable amount of information on how to avoid getting any of the nasty diseases that are spread by insects. For instance, I consulted the CDC recommendations for travel to Botswana ahead of my trip to Africa so that I could understand what illnesses I would be at risk of contracting there and how to best avoid them.
You may think that there is a blanket strategy for avoiding bug bites that carry illnesses, but you would be wrong. Different illnesses are carried by different species of mosquitos and ticks and these different species have different habits. For instance, the Dengue Fever is carried by Aedes mosquitos, which tend to feed during the daytime. They are most active in the early morning and mid to late afternoon. On the other hand, the Anepheles mosquitos that carry Malaria are nighttime biters and are typically active between dusk and dawn. Understanding which illnesses that you are at risk of contracting from insects at your destination and when and how you are most vulnerable is a critical first step in protecting yourself.
|Botswana Immunization Requirements|
Take a Proper Antimalarial Medication
Out of all the things that you can do to protect yourself from tick and mosquito-borne illnesses when traveling, taking a proper antimalarial medication is one of the most important. No matter how diligent you are about avoiding bug bites, it can be nearly impossible to completely avoid them. While antimalarial medications are not vaccines and do not completely protect you from infection, they significantly reduce your chances of being infected should you be bitten by an infected insect.
If you follow the other tips that I have laid out in this guide to reduce your chances of being bitten by an infected tick or mosquito, as well as take an approved antimalarial medication, you will be covering all of your bases. For more information on which antimalarial medication is right for you, please refer to the CDC guidance on anti-malaria medications and consult with your healthcare provider or a travel clinic.
|Why You Should Take an Antimalarial|
Use an EPA-registered Insect Repellent
One of the best ways to avoid being bitten by insects when traveling is to use the proper insect repellent on all of your exposed skin while outside. While insect repellent does not completely prevent insect bites, the right repellent can significantly reduce your risk of being bitten. If you are also applying sunscreen, you will want to be sure to apply your insect repellent to your exposed skin after you have applied your sunscreen. Studies have shown that the effectiveness of insect repellent is reduced when sunscreen is applied over it. You will also want to be sure to use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent that contains one or more of the following ingredients that have been proven to adequately prevent insect bites.
- DEET (Off! Deep Woods Sportsman, 3M Ultrathon lotion, Repel, Sawyer Ultra 30 lotion, Ben’s Eco Spray, Cutter Backwoods are all good options.)
- Picaridin (Natrapel and Sawyer’s Picaridin Insect Repellent are both good options)
- IR3535 (Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition, and Coleman’s SkinSmart are good options)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent and Off! Botanicals are good options)
Keep Mosquitos Out of Tents and Lodging
One of the places where we are most susceptible to insect bites is within the tent or room we are staying in while traveling. It is easy to be on guard when we are out and about in the outdoors. This is when we have our insect repellent on, and we are more vigilant about avoiding insects. However, when we get back to our tent or our room after showering, we don’t have the same level of protection, and this is when we typically leave our guard down.
It is critical to always keep the flaps of your tent closed and doors to your lodge room closed at all times when camping to avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses from bites while you are most vulnerable. Make sure you talk about this with other travelers in your party whom you are sharing a tent or room with before you arrive so that you are all on the same page and are protecting each other.
Sleep Under Mosquito Netting
While it is very important to try and keep all insects out of your tent or your room while traveling, it is an almost impossible task to keep them all out. No matter how hard you try, these pesky little critters will find a way to get into your room. Minimizing their numbers in your sleeping quarters is important, but you will need to give yourself some added protection inside your tent or room for when you are sleeping and defenseless.
This is why it is critically important to sleep under a mosquito net to further avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses when traveling in tropical regions where these diseases are endemic. Most lodges and quality campgrounds will include mosquito netting, but I always carry a small mosquito net with me in case I find myself in a situation where I am without a mosquito net in my lodging. They are lightweight, inexpensive, easy to pack, and critical to have should you find yourself needing one.
Wear Long Sleeve Shirts and Pants
In addition to using the proper insect repellent to avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, another great way to keep yourself protected when outside exploring is to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants. Granted, most of the areas of the world where you will need protection from insect-borne illnesses are also known for being incredible hot, but if you plan correctly, you can both protect yourself and remain comfortable. I would recommend investing in pants and long sleeve shirts that are moisture-wicking and breathable. This will allow the wind to easily flow thru your clothing and keep you cool while also limiting the amount of exposed skin for insects to bite.
Treat Your Clothing with Permethrin
On top of wearing long clothing when you are outdoors, you can further protect yourself from tick and mosquito-borne illnesses by treating your clothing with Permethrin before traveling. Permethrin physically binds to fabric (cotton or 50% cotton/nylon blends), which allows it to retain its repellency even after up to 6 weeks or 6 washes. This will give you an added layer of protection in addition to the insect repellent that you use on your bare skin. If you are interested in using Permethrin to treat your clothing before your next big adventure, I would strongly recommend purchasing the Sawyer brand Permethrin from the Amazon store site.
Avoid Areas Where Ticks Live
Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, African Tick-bite Fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and Kyasanur forest disease are just some of the many tick-borne illnesses that you can contract both inside the United States and while traveling abroad. In addition to the other tips that I have provided in this guide, one of the best ways to avoid getting a tick-borne illness is to avoid ticks altogether. The best way to do this is to avoid the places where they tend to live. Ticks generally gravitate towards shady and moist areas that are close to the ground. They will often cling to tall grass or low shrubs and wait for a passing person or animal to jump off and cling onto. When traveling, try to avoid walking thru tall grass or getting too close to low shrubs to avoid exposure to ticks.
Avoid Camping by Stagnant Bodies of Water
Speaking of avoiding where insects live, if you want to minimize your exposure to mosquitos while traveling, then it is definitely a good idea to avoid camping out near stagnate water when traveling. Pools of water are where mosquitos lay their eggs and there is a great chance that areas near these pools of water will have a large population of mosquitos in the vicinity. It is always a good idea to scout out the campsites before setting up camp to make sure that you won’t be camping out near a mosquito nursery. Believe me, you will be glad you spent the extra bit of time to pick a spot that isn’t infested with millions of biting insects.
Check Your Body for Ticks Daily
The final tip that I have for you on how to avoid tick and mosquito-borne illnesses is to make it a habit to check your body for ticks each and every day. As cautious as you might be to avoid tick territory and take the proper precautions to protect yourself, exposure to ticks sometimes still happens. If you do get a tick on your body, it will be critical to find and remove it as soon as possible. Every day when you shower, I would make a point to check your entire body for ticks. Pay extra attention to the hairy regions of your body where ticks gravitate towards. Believe me, this extra five minutes of due diligence each day can be the difference between returning home healthy and suffering thru a major illness.
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