If you go backpacking in parts of the world where mosquitoes are a nuisance – particularly tropical or sub tropical regions – then you will need to know how to protect yourself from them. Apart from taking anti malarial prophylaxis in areas where malaria is a danger, the best thing to do to protect yourself is try and avoid getting bitten in the first place.
Air conditioning, screening and nets.
Air conditioned hotel rooms are generally safe from mosquito bites provided that windows are left shut. They are not completely bug free, but they are more secure than most rooms. If you are staying somewhere without air conditioning, check that windows or doors have at least mesh insect screens on them. If your accommodation has none of these and you are essentially at risk, then you should try and sleep under a mosquito net where you can. These are available to buy almost everywhere, and if you buy one in the UK before you go, it should already be pre treated with permethrin, a solution that kills insects on contact. If your net is old or you cannot be sure if it has been pre treated, then you can get permethrin solution to soak it in. Nets should be treated like this every six months.
DEET sprays are extremely effective at repelling mosquitoes and other biting insects. Clinical evidence suggest they are very safe. There are a variety of strengths right up to 100% but it is generally not necessary or recommended to use a concentration any greater than 50% DEET. You should apply repellents to all exposed skin when outside and reapply regularly as needed dependent on the strength you are using.
Repellents containing natural ingredients are also popular among many backpackers who may not like the idea of using a lot of chemicals but evidence suggests that whilst they do work, do not work for as long as DEET based products and need to be reapplied more regularly.
Loose fitting, light cotton clothing should be worn. Cover up as much skin as is comfortable. Long trousers and at least a T shirt is best. Malarial mosquitoes are more active at night, particularly at dusk and dawn, so it is wise to cover up more during these times.
Coils and plug in devices.
Mosquito coils release an insecticide when burned and are effective if sitting outside on a balcony. They should not be used indoors. Electronic plug in devices are available to use inside, and release an insecticide spray.