Here’s some advice about the best ways to prevent mosquitoes biting you. Some of the ideas I’m sure might surprise you. I live in the mosquito infested tropics, but by following these guidelines I rarely get bitten.
1. Thiamine Tablets. A lot of people suggest that by eating garlic capsules mosquitoes decide they don’t want to eat you. Covered in bites one day, I did some pretty extensive research online and decided that this garlic capsule idea is a myth, and doesn’t help prevent mosquito bites. What does help, I have discovered, is taking a daily Thiamine tablet (in Spanish, it’s called Tiamina, and most pharmacies stock it). I take a 300mg Thiamine tablet every day, and it really does seem to keep the mosquitoes away. Thiamine is a vitamin - although 300mg is about 30 times the RDA, my doctor said it’s no problem to take such heavy doses as it’s just a vitamin. Apparently, taking Thiamine daily makes your sweat smell unattractive to mosquitoes and biting insects - but humans can’t detect any change of smell. So give it a try - remember that it takes 3 days to start working - so start taking the tablet 3 days before you arrive in the tropics.
2. Deet. Never ever have I found a single decent mosquito repellent for sale anywhere in South America. Everything on sale is an expensive waste of time. The best mosquito repellent sprays contain Deet - and they should say so on the container. The best are the repellents that contain 50% deet. I very much doubt you’ll find any Deet based mosquito repellents for sale in South America, so you’ll probably need to bring it from your home country. Try spraying Deet onto a line of ants and you’ll see why insects hate this stuff - they all drop dead in an instant. This is a seriously strong mosquito repellent - you definately don’t want to get it in your eyes of anywhere near your private bits! Deet works an absolute treat….
3. Buy a mosquito net. Certainly do so if you’re a backpacker planning on staying in cheap hostels - many of the cheap places to stay in South America will have small holes in the walls allowing biting insects to enter at night. More expensive hotels will provide you with a mosquito net if their air conditioning system isn’t effective enough at repelling insects (mosquitoes don’t like cool dry air). Remember that these insects are attracted by light so keep your doors and windows shut at night.
4. Buy a plug in mosquito repeller. These are small devices that plug into an electric socket and emit some type of smelly odour that drives mosquitoes away. Humans can hardly smell the odour though. I find these devices pretty effective, and they don’t cost much either. Buy one before you leave - you’ll be glad!
5. Cover up in the jungle/rainforest. The rainforest is the type of place where one is most likely to get the most bites. Don’t even consider wearing shorts in the rainforest - you’ll need long trousers unless you want to be covered in bites, and you may even want to consider using long sleeved shirts.
You might also find my earlier article about the malaria regions of Latin America relevant- you don’t need to bother with malaria pills in many areas.
Drop some tips into the comment box if you have any other solutions for preventing mosquito bites!