The Big Three…
So the time has come to talk Ms… Malaria, Mosquitoes and Medication. Here’s what I’m taking and what precautions I’m using, I mean, I’m no expert but here are a few things I’ve picked up. I’ll review some things when I get back and I’m sure in a few travel’s time I will be much more savvy. If you have any tips or suggestions for me, they’d be welcomed, just post them below.
My first misconception was that you can’t cure malaria and that there is only one ‘malaria’ (The malaria to end all malarias mwhahaha…), well, nope. There are lots of different strains and some can be cured by killing the parasite that the mosquito has deposited in you. There is, as we all know, still plenty of risk of death/life-time illness from malaria though. I also thought that India and Africa just ‘had’ malaria, full stop. Nope again. I found a lot of advice online (like on fitfortravel) and from doctors, and I was introduced to the ‘Malaria Map’; this basically showed me that the area I’m staying in is malaria free, which is amazing, but when I travel further north into Hyderabad and Goa I will be in malaria risk areas. This will help you work out exactly how many malaria tablets you need to pay for – the exact amount of days you’re planning on being in the risk zone, plus whatever clearance your chosen tablets need either side. As for which tablets to take…I’m no doctor. The best thing, of course, is to go and talk to a nurse or a specialised travel nurse and they can help you chose the best tablets for your trip and fill you in on the cost etc. There are multiple ways in which you can react badly to the tablets you’re on too – hopefully you won’t – so it’s best if you read the instructions about which tablets you’re allowed to switch to, if yours don’t work. (I know, it’s a tad confusing.)
Okay so for me the best idea seems to be prevention rather than cure and it’s not just malaria you can contract from mosquitoes. Oh no. These nasty little critters can also get you with Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis and other bugs. So here come the usual tips:
- Cover up – although long clothing doesn’t prevent mosquitoes it might make them slightly less likely to go for you than if all your yummy flesh is flailing around in the air. You can also find now some ‘smart’ clothing, like walking trousers, that claims to be mosquito repellent before you’ve even added your own stuff on top. That seems like a good thing to add to the list.
- Stagnant water – stay away from it. Any still or stagnant water, especially in the evenings and after sun down is more likely to be surrounded by mosquitoes or to be a breeding ground.
- Nets – either sleep under an impregnated mosquito net or in a building that is fully netted-up. If you don’t have nets, just shut your doors and windows for sure! You can get plug in mosquito repellents too, but they can be heavy to carry around if you’re on mission Travel Light.
And then there are repellents. The key ingredient – and I’ve mentioned that I’m not sure if it’s entirely environmentally friendly, but it is effective – is DEET. It has a chemical name but most bottles will label it as DEET. I have used the Jungle Formula products for as long as I can remember and this time I’ve gone for the highest Protection Rating, which is 4, which contains at least 50% DEET and comes in a spray or cream form. I’ve gone for spray because, well, I just hate having too much cream all over my body. The highest percentage DEET I’ve managed to find in supermarkets is 50% but if you go into a walking or camping shop you can find a much wider range. I got one bottle of 96% DEET which I shouldn’t think I’ll need to be honest, but hey, mosquitoes for miles around will be flying for cover when I step out of a building.
The Secret Weapon in the fight against mosquitoes, which is relatively well known now I think, is the Avon Skin So Soft spray. I know people in the Armed Forces who use this, sometimes get issued this, people who’ve been to some seriously bug-y jungles have recommended it. Apparently it’s to do with the citronella content, and the mixture of other things, but mosquitoes absolutely hate it. People swear by it – I’ll see what happens. Of course the only pain is that you have to find an Avon catalogue to order from but maybe I’m seriously uncool in that I didn’t already have one.
I babble a lot in the video but it’s really personal and everyone will want to take something different. For me the key ingredients are the Anthisan and the Imodium (these are just the two brands I happen to know) to ease irritation from bites, stings and rashes and then to ease diarrhoea. Diarrhoea isn’t something we really like to talk about (or spell) but it’s something that happens to everyone, especially in a foreign country with new food, so we may as well get over it, be honest about it and carry something to stop it ruining our day. I don’t know why it’s such an ‘embarrassing’ topic anyway. As well as the cream for if I do get stings or rashes, I also like to take Piriteze tablets (or Piriton medicine) which are the allergy tablets I’m used to. I’m only taking them because I have no idea if my hay fever/cat allergy/dust allergy (I haven’t quite figured out the trigger yet) will be bad over there or not. I could also be allergic to food or a plant I suppose, so it’s handy to travel with.
Most of you will utter a derisive snort when you see I’ve packed travel sickness tablets. Yes…I get travel sick. Yes I have a very inappropriate collection of ailments and fears to be a traveller – but who cares, I love it! I love Stugeron because it’s very effective and sends me on a pleasant snooze if I’m already a little tired but it’s not strong enough to literally knock me out if I have some adrenaline going through me; don’t just take my word for it though, check with your doctor etc.
What do you take in your medical kit when you travel? If you could only take one thing what would it be? And… do you have any DEET alternatives that are planet friendlier?