Health in South East Asia: How to avoid mosquitoes

Most travel advisories for South East Asian countries suggest having Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccine in addition to your routine vaccines. Other vaccines can be recommended depending on your itinerary and length of your stay in the region or in the rural areas. Malaria is a low risk in most touristy places, but you need to check, if it is present in the regions you are heading to. Obviously, you need to check with the travel cliniques and do the vaccines according to your itinerary and medical history. Personally, we didn’t do any additional vaccines, but we were extremely careful with food.

Many diseases can be avoided by preventing mosquito bites. I have researched this issue a lot before going. There are three preventive options: the products containing deet, the products with picaridin and the natural options (citronella, lemon eucalyptus, etc). Based on my research and the advice of healthcare professionals, deet works best, so I bought several options with deet. We also had picaridin based lotions with, but we didn’t use them.

Of course, if you are allergic to deet or don’t want to use the chemicals, you could use the natural options, but mostly this is not advised, as they may not be as effective. I can’t tell you anything from personal experience, as we didn’t want to risk it, so were using deet.

The percentage of deet in a mosquito repellent tells you, how long it will work. 7% means that it works 1-1.5 hours. To be on the safe side, count it as 1 hour. So the 25% Off! repellent we brought worked up to 4 hours. We also used 50% Jungle formula and 40% Repel repellents, but I found that higher percentages made me itchy. I preferred Off! and kept reapplying it every 3-4 hours.

Whatever you choose (deet, picaridin or natural repellents), you will definitely need to bring one with you and make sure to apply it, as often as needed. Keep in mind that most of these repellents will not work after you get into sea, so you need to reapply them.

If you don’t bring any repellent, you can find them in 7-11 stores across the region, however, the easily available ones are the ones with 13-15% deet, which only work for 2 hours.

One more big tip for avoiding mosquito bites is also wearing not too tight clothes and treating them with permethrin. Permethrin is the chemical liquid, which you will need to spray on your clothes and wait until they dry. That can be a long and annoying job, but it really helps. Mosquitoes are less attracted to you and you won’t get bites through the clothes. I got a couple of such bites with my non-permethrin-treated clothes, so I can confirm from personal experience, that permethrin is useful.

Permethrin is not a cheap treat. They were rather expensive on Amazon. We bought the Sawyer brand, but there are several others you can choose from. One bottle was enough for about 8 clothing items in my case (4-5 outfits). You can also treat your sock, but not underwear.

You also better bring a sunscreen. The direct tropical sun can be damaging to your skin and health. According to my research, it is best to apply sunscreen first, wait for at least 15 mins and then apply mosquito repellent. If you don’t wait or put them other way round, you may be decreasing their efficiency.

The sunscreens around Thailand, Cambodia and elsewhere are extremely expensive. A small sunscreen bottle I bought from Amazon for 5 USD per two pack cost 15 USD there. I also heard that all sunscreens contain bleach, as the locals like to whiten their skin. That is damaging to health and I wouldn’t advice buying such sunscreens. So if you buy them locally, be sure to check thoroughly.

Visited 50 countries and counting, Lived in 3 cities and collected a lot of useful information to help fellow travel junkies out there.

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