How to avoid diseases caused by mosquito bites

by Ale Werner

I think I speak for everyone when I say that mosquitoes are one of the most annoying factors when it comes to traveling. Not only because they sting and leave you sometimes huge welts; if not because they also transmit diseases. Dengue, malaria, yellow fever and the last years Zika are just some of these.

Although they are not around the world and their area of spread depends on factors such as climate and humidity, it is always necessary to be aware of the risks of our destination country.

The most common diseases

Yellow Fever and its Vaccine

mapa fiebre amarilla 2018
Explanatory map with areas of risk for yellow fever. Yellow is recommended; orange is generally not recommended and grey is not recommended.

The disease is found in the tropical zones of Africa and Latin America; It is an acute disease, often fatal.

It is called yellow fever because many patients have jaundice, which is when the skin takes on this color. Not all the infected have serious symptoms, and many may even be asymptomatic, but the risk exists. The symptoms, in general, are fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and other related. The incubation period goes from 3 to 6 days and most of the infected patients become one week with the symptoms.

The vaccine is the best method to prevent infection. It must be administered at least 10 days before the trip, and booster doses are recommended every 10 years.


mapa malaria 2018
Explanatory map of areas with malaria risk. Blue indicate the countries where malaria is commonly found and light blue indicate places where the risk exists but is limited to some cases of trasmition.

There is no vaccine for this disease, but there are remedies that must be taken every day when there is a risk of exposure. This disease is common in tropical and subtropical countries; with humid and rainy climates.

The incubation lasts from 7 to 16 days after being bitten. It is characterized by a constant variation of temperature between low and high, which makes the infected remain in a state of significant fatigue and even confusion; apart from strong muscular pains, headaches, chills, nausea, diarrhea and more.

If you go to a country at risk of malaria, it is highly recommended that you visit an infectious disease doctor (or similar) who will prescribe antimalarials. There are different types of the remedy that are known to cause upset stomach, headache, and nausea. Today, new remedies that cause these secondary symptoms in less intensity have come onto the market; but of course, they are more expensive.

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mapa dengue 2018
Explanatory map of areas with risk of dengue

There is no vaccine for this disease. Here the option is natural treatments and protection against mosquito bites. Like malaria, this disease is common in tropical and subtropical countries; with humid and rainy climates.

Incubation of the virus lasts between 3 to 14 days. Symptoms are characterized by a continuous high fever from day 6 or 7, which may last 1 or 2 weeks.


mapa zika 2018
Explanatory map of areas with zika risk

This virus has expanded a lot during the last years, especially in countries with tropical climates and wet and rainy seasons. For the person who contracts it will be 2 to 7 days of incubation, with symptoms such as not very high fever, headache, muscle fatigue, and exhaustion. The real problem is when the contagious person is a pregnant woman or plans to have babies.

It has been discovered a relationship between microcephaly (babies born with small heads and in general neurological problems related to the lower growth of these), Guillain-Barre syndrome and Zika virus.

If a couple looking to get pregnant travels to countries with Zika cases, it is recommended for the safety of the fetus to wait to continue trying 6 months until after the man returns; and/or 2 months until after the woman returns. If you travel as a couple, it will be the 6 months recommended for the man. Here you can find more information about it.

Another important point is that there are studies that show how mosquitoes prefer pregnant women. In general, women are preferred by estrogen, so imagine a pregnant woman with an excess of this hormone. To this must be added the increase in body temperature proper to pregnancy. A study published in the magazine “The Lancet” showed that pregnant women attract twice as many mosquitoes.


After the vaccination or taking the malaria pills, you only have to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Here we leave a list with some useful tips.

The repellents with DEET.

The repellents sold in pharmacies generally contain DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide). It has been shown that this compound is the most effective at the time of repelling mosquitoes, as it stuns and drives them away. There are repellents with different percentages of DEET. A minimum of 30% is recommended for good protection, although in fact the% only determines the duration of the effect. (10% lasts approximately 2 hours and 98% lasts 10 hours).

Children can use these repellents, as long as the description of the container indicates it.

We always recommend buying the repellent in the country of destination and not in your own country. If you think about it, in general, the locals know their climate and conditions much better than other companies. Also, speaking as Chilean, in Chile, they are very expensive and in other countries, they can cost less than half the price and be much more effective.

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Also keep in mind that if you transport spray repellent by plane, you must take it in checked baggage because of the forbidden items on airplanes.

Natural repellents

The smell of lemon and other citrus fruits repels insects, and in many countries, natural repellents based on fruits and plants have been developed. These, in general, have a lower price than chemicals with DEET, but they have also been shown to be less effective. They should be administered every few hours if you really want an effect on their protection.

Vitamin B

They say it’s a myth, but we’re going to recommend it because we tried it and we felt it really had results. Taking vitamin B in pills or eating foods high in this vitamin makes our body give off a smell that repels mosquitoes, and we do not feel.

In all pharmacies and countries sell supplements of this vitamin that can help prevent mosquitoes bites at very low prices.

Colonies and Perfumes

You should avoid using colognes and perfumes with sweet smells. Better to avoid these products while you are in areas with mosquitoes.

White clothes

The strong and striking colors also attract the attention of mosquitoes. Also black or dark colors serve as camouflage to bring you closer. The white clothes do not call them, and it will be easier for you to see them and move them away.

Sleep with mosquito net or air conditioning

At night we move little and we become the perfect target for these unpleasant friends. Try to sleep in a bed with a mosquito net and check it inside very well before going to sleep (maybe some evil guy is hiding waiting for you). If you do not have a mosquito net, the air conditioning does not like it very much either.

The hour of the day

In general, mosquitoes leave at dawn and dusk to feed. If you do not want to be eaten alive you can avoid these schedules to get closer to wet areas such as rivers and beaches.

What happens if I get sick?

Since the symptoms are very similar to each other, it is always best to go to a hospital, clinic or medical center. Here you can check if you are indeed infected with any of the viruses and what it is. The treatments differ among the diseases.

We always recommend taking travel insurance for travel assistance before leaving your country. We hope you never have to use it; but if you are in an unknown place with 40 degrees of fever, we believe you will appreciate it. Here, check more about medical insurance and why they are important.

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