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Insect Bites Advice

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Question: Whenever I go on holiday I’m forever getting bitten. What do you recommend?

16 September, 2008 – 17:21

Answer: In some parts of the world, such as Africa and South America, mosquito bites can lead to serious diseases such as malaria, which is why visitors to these areas have to be immunised before they travel. If in any doubt as to whether your trip poses a health risk, ask at your local health shop or pharmacy.

Likewise if you think you could be suffering from malaria consult your GP immediately. Symptoms include fevers and chills, a violent headache, nausea and vomiting, and can result in death if left untreated.

Generally speaking, however, insect bites tend to be more of a nuisance than a health hazard, causing discomfort and skin irritation. Try the following tips to help reduce your chances of being bitten.

Use mosquito nets at night, making sure your sleeping quarters are secure. For added protection, spray the netting with permethrin, an insect repellent that can be used safely on bedding and clothing.

Try to cover up as much as possible and use insect repellents on exposed skin. Conventional sprays and lotions will often contain a chemical called DEET, which can produce adverse reactions in some people, so always check the label first.

Natural alternatives could include Eucalyptus oil, which can be very effective when used topically and orally. In fact, recent studies show that eucalyptus extract is nearly as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitoes, flies and midges.

You should also wear bright clothing as much as possible, as mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours and the contrast of dark on light.

If the little critters still manage to find you, witch hazel and essential oil of lavender can help to ease irritation and reduce inflammation when applied topically.

Equally, marigold is renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. First used in ancient Egypt, it is one of the best herbs for treating skin infections, irritation and bites.

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