The chances catching something nasty from a mosquito bite are slim in Goa, but why leave it to chance? We’ve been burning the midnight oil searching though academic papers to see what really work and what’s just rumour.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
1. Only female mosquitoes bite as they need a blood meal to lay eggs. It’s her saliva that creates a reaction causing the itchy bumps.
2. We can be detected from up to to 100 feet away from our carbon dioxide (breathing) and lactic acid (from exercised muscles).
3. Her poor visual sensors can detect our movements and she can sense our body heat and odour (particularly feet)
4. Standing water is vital to the mosquito’s life cycle and they much prefer puddles to established ponds. The monsoon season in Goa brings a higher risk of malaria because of this.
5. They are most active at sunrise, sunset and early evening. Mosquitoes carrying malaria work after dark, but those carrying dengue (presently on the rise) operate in the day.
The best way to get bitten is find a stagnant puddle and do some vigorous barefooted exercise in skimpy florescent clothing at sunset! I have vowed to stop that now.
DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) products containing 20% or more are often recommended for (non pregnant adult) travellers. This US repellent has been seen as the most effective for 40 years and you can find it in the UK at shops like Boots. DEET can give up to 5 hours protection. On the downside is it is toxic, can cause skin rashes and damage synthetic clothing. Also there’s some indication DEET is losing some of its effectiveness.
Advanced Odomos cream (12% N, N-diethyl-benzamide) is an available and cheaper alternative in Goa. The Indian Journal of Medical Research claim it is as effective as using 12% DEET and that both were giving full protection. Odomosis has the advantage of being gentle on skin and clothing, but it’s popular because DEET has to be imported to India so is expensive.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil can be effective mosquito repellent in high concentration, but may only be good for a couple of hours. Garlic, vitamin B, ultraviolet lights and ultrasonic devices are not effective. The effectiveness of Citronella oil is a little less certain, but is generally not recommended.
We use Odomos, but if you’re coming to a tropical climate for the first time you might want to bring a 50% DEET product with you. You can get over 50% but it is considered more injurious than effective.
Colour of clothing. Some say wear dark, some say light, and some even go with khaki. However, mosquito eyes are tuned to movement detection rather than colour. Dark colours may appear to attract mosquitoes, but it’s likely to be due to the heat dark clothing can retain. Equally dark clothing in the evening may help you blend into the background and go undetected.
Weight of clothing. Some say thick, some say light. Mosquitoes can bite through clothing and while very thick and tightly woven clothing may give you extra protection, it could also make you hot, sweaty and attractive. Loose clothing also helps in creating a barrier between your clothes and your skin.
Wear clean socks. Mosquito appear to be attracted to the smell of feet (and in case you were wondering – they’re not fooled by a smelly cheese). It’s not a bad idea to tuck you trouser in to them either. This is Goa – no one is judging your fashion sense.
Don’t shave your legs. This is anecdotal, but some say the movement of hair gives them some warning that the mossies (as the ausssie call them) are about. I always follow this one!
Avoid flowery & fruity perfumes – Another anecdotal one, but we do know mosquitoes mainly eat nectar.
Remove Standing Water. This avoids making an attractive home for the next generation.
Air Conditioning. Cool air is not attractive to mosquitoes and make them inactive. You do have to be aware of the water they produce which is attractive,
Ceiling Fans. To move air over your body particularly the feet area.
Mosquito Nets/ Grills. For the bed windows or doors
Electric plug-in mosquito repellents. We use the extremely popular Good Knight and from our daily sweeping up of the dead believe it to be very effective. However, we did see these bad reviews (they look suspicious as the negative reviews seem to be from non regular reviewers). Unfortunately the electricity goes off regularly in Goa.
Mosquito coils. These burn for up to 8 hours, but because of the smell and fire hazard are best used on balconies. Typically waiters light them up under tables when eating out in Goa.
…and don’t forget to shake the bed sheets.
This video below is not aimed at those visiting India, but it covers most of the above excellently.
WE’VE BEEN LUCKY WITH MOSQUITOES, BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU?
How do you go about avoiding mosquito bites? Are you one of those sweet-blooded people the mossies loves?