Dealing with Mosquitoes

Unfortunately, mosquitoes are part of life here in the Caribbean. Watch out especially at dawn and dusk – known as mosquito o’clock – and be prepared with a decent repellent.

As annoying as mosquitoes are, we are very lucky that this is not a malaria region, so we don’t have to worry too much.

Here are some key points to help you avoid too many itchy bites on your adventure:

Mosquitoes can’t fly in the wind.

Even the slightest breeze will deter a mosquito. They’re absolutely rubbish at flying in windy conditions – they can’t manage a 1-mile-an-hour wind!

You can imagine, then, how being in Cabarete, a kitesurf and windsurf hotspot, might help you out! The wind picks up after 11am and drops after sunset, so you need to be super vigilant outside these hours.

At night, opt for a mosquito net over the bed, or blast a fan straight at you. That should keep the biters away.

Mosquitoes fly close to the ground

Due to gusts of wind, mosquitoes tend to keep quite close to the ground. This means your feet, ankles and calves are generally pretty vulnerable. They should be your focus when applying repellent.

Keep an eye on your lower legs when sitting at dinner. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat with my legs under the table, only to realise at the end of the meal that I’m covered in bites. Turns out, the mosquitoes were feasting, too!

Some light, airy trousers, preferably tapered at the ankle are your best bet. Long sleeves are great too, or a light scarf or shawl to shield exposed skin.

Experts reckon mosquitoes use the contrast of your silhouette against the background to determine whether to bite. Wearing lighter colours lowers the contrast, making you less visible to the nibblers.

Rules of Attraction

While no one is immune to getting bitten, there are certain chemicals in the skin and blood that attract mosquitoes more than others. Sadly, this is genetic and so there’s not much you can change.

If you’re one of those people who feels they always get more bites than everyone else, you’re probably not going crazy! It’s not in your head, it’s in your genes.

There’s some evidence to suggest people with O blood type attract more mosquitoes than A and B.

Mosquitoes are sensitive to CO2 levels, and they use these to find you out. If you have a naturally high metabolism (or are pregnant, overweight, or exercising), you are more smellable to the mozzys.

Alcohol is also attractive to mosquitoes.

So, if you’ve just worked out in dark clothing and have sat down with a beer, you’re a vulnerable target.

The Aftermath

Just as some people get bitten more than others, different people’s skin has different reactions.

If you’re lucky, you’ll just get a little red bump that itches but goes away within a couple of days.

For the unlucky ones, though, the bites can swell up to great big lumps and be quite painful.

The key in either case is not to scratch. I repeat: do not scratch your mosquito bites!

While it may relieve the agony of the itch, scratching can open up the wound again and lead to infection and scarring. Not pretty. Oh, it’ll also make the itching worse.

The itch is caused by your brain sending histamines in response to the coagulant in the blood sucker’s saliva. As with many allergic reactions, anti-histamines can help ease symptoms. Just watch out for the drowsy effects, and don’t operate heavy machinery.

If you experience any shortness of breath and severe inflammation, you might be having a serious allergic reaction to a mosquito bite and you should seek medical help immediately.

Some home remedies

There are many claims as to what can stop the bites itching and help the wound heal.

To prevent infection, wash the bite with water and a bit of soap. You can apply ice to cool and numb if it feels hot and inflamed.

Baking soda mixed with a little water to form a paste can be applied to bites. It is alkaline and can help neutralise the acidity and reduce inflammation.

Honey is naturally antibacterial and can help speed the healing process.

Apparently, toothpaste can offer great relief. It cools and dries out the wound, possibly drawing inflammatory fluids out. Even better if it contains baking soda as well.

If you have the time, a blended cup of oatmeal sprinkled in a lukewarm bath will moisturise and soothe angry skin.

Other potential remedies include rubbing banana peel, basil leaves, cold tea bags, vapour rub and aloe vera on the bites.

Hopefully that helps you understand those pesky mozzys better. Armed with insect repellent in Cabarete, you should be able to escape with only minor nibbles.