Escaping the daily grind and travelling the world is definitely an appealing notion, but there are a number of pesky little critters who are looking to put a damper on your gap year fun. We’re of course referring to insects, including the infamous mosquito and hostel dwelling bed bug! With a few precautions, these insects and the painful bites and health issues that come with them can be avoided, so here are a few tips for keeping your body a bite, disease and parasite free zone…
Let’s start with mosquitoes, one of the most common and troublesome insects that travellers will come across, whether they’re travelling through South East Asia, South America or Africa. In many countries, Mosquitoes carry Malaria, which is then transmitted via their bites, so it is important that you research your destination and it’s Malaria risk before you travel, as you may need to take Anti-Malarial medication prior to departure. Even if the country you are visiting doesn’t carry a Malaria risk, you should still wear a mosquito repellent, preferably containing DEET, as this will help prevent mosquitoes from landing on you and causing painful and uncomfortable bites. Tropical diseases such as dengue fever are also carried by mosquitoes, and there is no vaccine or medication you can take to prevent this, so in this case, a good insect repellent is your only defence. Read our blog post on mosquito defence for more tips!
Travelling on a budget means sleeping on a budget, so you’re likely to be staying in hostels for the duration of your trip. Hostels are great for meeting new friends and keeping the cost of your gap year to a minimum, however in some budget accommodation you will find you may be sharing a bed with an unwanted creepy crawly guest. Bed bugs can be common in hostels and cause painful and unsightly bites – not a good look! You can avoid bed bug bites by using a protective bed bug sheet or treated sleeping bag liner, these are treated with an insecticide such as Deltamethrin and create a barrier between you and those nasty little critters!
Sandflies (Biting Midges)
Anyone that has been to Australia or New Zealand will tell you that sandflies can be pretty relentless! As their name suggests, they are commonly found on beaches but they also like to accumulate around lakes and swamps…they love flowing water! So, when you’re sitting and enjoying the sunset at the beach, beware of them swarming towards you and leaving you covered in uncomfortable angry looking bites. Covering arms and legs in problem areas is one way to reduce the risk of getting bitten, but the best defence is to use an insect repellent that also works against sandflies, such as Lifesystems Expedition 50+
Ticks are classed as a small arachnid and tend to dwell in humid climates and can be found in tall grass and wooded areas. So if you’re trekking or exploring off the beaten track during your trip, make sure you keep an eye out for ticks latching onto you. Once a tick has attached itself to your body, it burrows it’s head underneath your skin, making it difficult to remove. If a tick is not removed properly, you can be left with it’s head or parts of it’s mouth stuck under your skin, which can lead to infections and other problems. If you are unlucky enough to get bitten by a tick, the safest and most effective way to remove it is by using a tick removal tool, which looks similar to a set of tweezers.
Ticks can cause serious infections and illness, including Tick-borne encephalitis, which causes flu-like symptoms such as a headache and high temperature. Many people do recover within about a week, but in some more serious cases the infection progresses and can result in paralysis, inability to speak and seizures. Tick bites can also result in Lyme Disease, which also produces flu-like symptoms and can result in joint and muscle pain, as well as neurological problems.
Trust us, a bot fly infestation is like something out of a horror film and after a bite from a mosquito you could find yourself playing host to bot fly larvae! The bot fly uses a vector, such as a mosquito, to carry it’s eggs after it attaches them to it’s body. When the mosquito bites a human it transmits the eggs, which then hatch under the persons skin. Removal of these critters can be difficult, but one method people have used is blocking the breathing hole with Vaseline to suffocate the larvae, which can be removed a day or so later, preferably by a medical professional. Never try and squeeze them out like a splinter, as this can cause their bodies to burst and cause anaphylactic shock!
You can avoid this horrific scenario by applying plenty of mosquito repellent to help prevent mosquito bites, and the other nasty surprises they bring with them.