It’s nearly summer, and the time when lots of us in the northern hemisphere head off for our holidays in search of sun and fun. While you’re packing for your holiday, make sure you’ve prepared yourself for meeting some of the local insects too, as lots of bugs in popular destinations carry dangerous diseases or parasites.
Because knowledge is power, we’ve rounded up some of the key critters with a nasty bite in our Bug Files. From the North American tick that might give you a meat allergy, to the wide-ranging anopheles mosquito that spreads malaria, they give you an intro to the wildlife you wouldn’t want to meet on holiday.
But how to protect yourself? There’s lots of specific advice that’s worth being aware of. Like don’t wear blue in sub-Saharan Africa, because it’s particularly attractive to the tsetse fly that spreads sleeping sickness in this area. Or always apply your insect repellent after your sunscreen, to make it as effective as possible.
You may also have heard that using insect repellents containing DEET are unsafe. A review in Parasites and Vectors has just shown that the evidence for the dangers of the insect repellent DEET is limited. The authors say that, on balance, wearing insufficient concentrations of insect repellent probably puts you at a greater health risk than DEET use. James Logan has written a blog for BioMed Central about the paper, and their campaign to make sure travelers stay safe from insect bites.
So before you go on holiday, make sure you get advice about the insect risk in your destination and what precautions to take before and during your holiday.
The NHS Scotland site Fit for travel has information specific to each destination about the risks in that country, and links to advice. The CDC Travel site has advice on avoiding insect bites and a healthy travel packing checklist for each country. It also gives specific advice for if you’re traveling with young children, pregnant or managing a chronic condition.
Your GP or pharmacist can be a great place to get advice about what precautions you should be taking too, and travel or outdoor activity shops tend to have good advice too.
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are launching Bug Off – an Insect Repellent Awareness Day, to let people know about the dangers, and more importantly, what they can do to protect themselves.
Anna Perman is a media officer at BioMed Central. The Bug files will also be available on our Facebook page. Copy for the Bug files was written by Alanna Orpen, and the design was by James Balm.