So much heavy rain has meant that lakes and rivers are bursting their banks. This is great for mosquitoes, because they need water to breed. Although bites from most of the mosquitoes found in our climes are harmless, they’re not very pleasant at all. When mosquitoes puncture your skin they inject it with their saliva. This stops the blood from clotting and makes it easier for the mosquito to suck. The substances in the saliva trigger an allergic reaction in your body, causing itching and swelling. Our blood provides the protein they need to make eggs, which is why only female mosquitos bite.
Unfortunately there’s no ultimate protection against mosquito bites. But there are various things you can do to keep the tiny bloodsuckers at bay. For example alongside mosquito nets and fly screens, air conditioning can help, as mosquitoes don’t really feel comfortable at temperatures below 18 degrees Celsius. You can also make yourself unattractive to mosquitoes by taking regular showers and washing your clothes frequently. Mosquitoes have a very sensitive sense of smell, and are attracted by the smell of our bodies.
Since bugs can bite through fine material, wearing long clothes only helps to an extent. It’s best to go for light-coloured, loose-fitting garments made of tightly-woven cloth.
Not all smells, however, are pleasing to mosquitoes. In fact certain scents can be used to ward off bugs. Instead of traditional, strong-smelling sprays you can try lemons, lavender and tomato plants. You can put them on your skin in the form of essential oils such as lemon or tea tree oil.
If you do get bitten, whatever you do don’t scratch! This only makes the itching worse and increases the risk of inflammation. You can get relief from cooling gels and lotions (like aloe vera). Heat treatment can also help, for example by warming a spoon and placing it on the bite. Things you find in the kitchen, such as lemon juice and vinegar, can also reduce the itching. If nothing else is to hand you can also dab the bite with your own saliva.
In many countries, mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting dangerous diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. This particularly applies to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, regions of the Pacific, and parts of Central and South America. Before you travel make sure to find out about the risks and take any necessary precautions.