Preventing Insect Bites

First line protection for the traveller against any insect borne disease is not getting bitten in the first place.

Risk of contracting certain diseases varies with location of your accommodation and for those travelling to rural areas certain risks increase.


While malaria mosquitoes feed between dusk and dawn, other types of mosquitoes carrying different diseases bite at other times of day. It is important to discuss with your Travel Health advisor

  1. when you are at risk of mosquito borne disease and
  2. what time of day carries the greatest risk.

Mosquitoes tend to respond to light in their feeding habits, some preferring daylight, others darkness.

Malaria mosquitoes usually prefer low light hours after dusk until dawn. Dengue mosquitoes’ peak biting times are the few hours before dusk and the few hours after dawn and are present during the day light hours.

Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by applying a good mosquito repellent to exposed areas every 6 hours. Clothes can also be impregnated with repellent for further protection. If wearing sunscreen, apply your repellent on top.

Keep your legs and arms covered with clothing to lower risk of bites on the skin. Avoid wearing dark colours, as they can attract mosquitoes. While mosquitoes are able to bite through many materials, canvas mosquito boots and thick denim jeans will make it more difficult in rural areas, where the risks are always the greatest.

Use a ‘knock-down’ spray in the evening to get rid of mosquitoes before going to sleep. Avoid strong perfumes, hair sprays or after-shaves as they can attract mosquitoes!

Use air-conditioning if it is available. Because air conditioning helps keep the mosquitoes away due to the lower temperature, it is important that it is left on all day and that the windows or shutters are not left open at night!

Try to avoid evening walks beside rivers and ponds as this is where mosquitoes breed.

Use this information along with any medication advice your doctor has given you.

Other biting insects include the small sand fly, which is capable of spreading Leishmaniasis in certain locations; ticks, which are responsible for diseases such as Lymes disease; and mites which can cause scabies; as well as many other different species.

In a risk area, it is wise to use a bed net, which is impregnated with permethrin. For a net to be effective, it needs to be impregnated with permethrin at least every six months or whenever it is washed. While sand flies will be able to get through the holes, by landing on a net that is impregnated, they will be killed.

Use a repellent that has DEET or contains a natural repellent such as lemon and eucalyptus; try to avoid using products that are connected to homemade concoctions!

Clothing that has been impregnated with permethrin will also help repel insects if you will be working in a rural area. This clothing, along with impregnated wrist and ankle bands, lower the risk of being bitten. If you are reluctant to impregnate everyday clothing, impregnated netting worn over the clothing will prevent chemical contact with the skin. It is important that fellow travellers are protected in a similar way, as repelled mosquitoes will go to another person who is not protected!


Note: This information is designed to complement and not replace the relationship that exists with your existing family doctor or travel health professional.  Please discuss your travel health requirements with your regular family doctor or practice nurse.