Beat the Mosquitoes - And The Bank!
Fortunately a traveller can limit their exposure and lessen their risk - but it all comes at a cost. Like many specialty health care items, malaria prevention products, devices, and prescriptions can be very expensive. The information below is NO substitution for a physician's advice, but I've done my best to provide you with the information needed to beat both the mosquitoes AND the bank!
Malaria Prevention Medication
It may be tempting to accepted or purchase leftover pills from travelling friends, especially if it's the exact product recommended by your doctor. But this money saving strategy isn't without risk. Even if you were absolutely confident that the medication was unexpired, brand name, and properly stored, it is against the law in most jurisdictions to purchase or even use someone else's prescription and it can be dangerous to travel with unlabeled prescription medication. Think this one through carefully.
Mosquitoes Are Bad Bed Mates
What these two designs have in common is that they need an anchor. Most bed nets come with hooks but it doesn't hurt to bring your own. 3M Picturing Hanging Hooks can be used without causing any damage to the walls.
DEET-feating Mosquitoes: Bug Repellents Reviewed
While in Malawi, I used Watkins Insect Repellent (28.5% DEET) and it worked very well for me. While DEET is very effective, it is also a powerful chemical. If this concerns you, speak with your physician about a safe and effective alternative. If you are on a budget and don't have a strong product preference, purchase a small quantity of repellent before your trip and, when it runs out, replace it locally. DEET-based repellents (along with mosquito repelling coils) are widely accessible and relatively affordable in developing countries.
Your Anti-Mosquito Wardrobe
Many travel companies and camping supply stores offer specialty clothing that has been treated with permethrin for added protection. Permethrin treated clothing is expensive. I would consider buying it if I was unable to use anti-malarials or DEET or if I genuinely loved the item's look and fit. I wouldn't consider this as my first line of defense nor would I chose clothing that didn't feel and look good just because it's treated.
Rumored Remedies: Crafty or Cracked?
Avoiding dark or floral print clothing: Apparently looking like a giant delicious blossom is a mighty temptation for a mosquito, so it's best to stick to non-botanical prints.
Avoid floral scents: If looking like a blossom is temptation, then smelling like a fresh garden is absolutely irresistible to the mosquito community! Avoiding heavily scented perfumes and bath products does seem to be a helpful strategy.
Many natural cosmetic products sell 'bug-be-gone' soap with ingredients known to repel mosquitoes, such as citrus peels, lavender, peppermint, citronella, and lemongrass.
Avoid drinking beer: You would have to really, really hate mosquitoes (and beer!) to put this theory to the test! Again, if you have experience with this, please let me know!
Eat Garlic (or bananas.....) Garlic and bananas are delicious (when eaten separately!) and excellent for your health - but they do nothing to repel mosquitoes.
Unfortunately, today's tonic water contains precious little quinine and is completely ineffective as an anti-malarial strategy. According to Malaria Journal: In the United States, the FDA limits the quinine content in tonic water to 83 ppm while the daily therapeutic dose of quinine is in the range of 500–1000 mg, and 10 mg/kg every eight hours for effective malaria prevention (2100 mg daily for a 70 kg adult).
Final verdict: Delicious drink, poor medicine.
Smoke marijuana: I heard this advice time and time again in Malawi, but I would strongly advise against it. Smoking and possessing marijuana is illegal in virtually every country with a malaria risk and the anti-malarial properties are dubious at best.
Vitamin B12 shots: I highly suspect my mother made this up to convince my youthful self to accept injections with little fuss. Any pre-travel bloodwork should include a B12 check for general good health, but unfortunately high B12 blood levels don't repel mosquitoes.
There are many excellent charitable organizations dedicated to fighting malaria in developing countries. Spread the Net has delivered over 2.5 million bed nets and counting as part of malaria prevention and reduction efforts in Africa.
The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) is a non-profit organization providing reliable, impartial medical information to travellers. IAMAT's website provides comprehensive information on malaria and all aspects of travel health. Donation based membership includes a medical directory of IAMAT affiliated, English speaking physicians and health clinics in over 90 countries.
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