Spray on some bug repellent (don’t try to repel the opposite sex) and enjoy the islands
Paradise does not come without a price. There are some natural hazards one has to deal with when living in a postcard. Some things that come readily to my mind are hurricanes, hangovers, sunburns and those pesky mosquitoes.
It’s 4 a.m., you’ve been in bed for two hours after a large night at the Bomba Shack. Your mouth is dry, a headache is just setting in, you need to get up to go to the bathroom but can’t fathom the effort and there is freaking mosquito buzzing around your head. You swear the damn thing is going to make you loose your mind. Every once in awhile you feel it bite you. When you slap at it you only hit yourself. Great. Welcome to the islands.
It is common to read questions on travel forums regarding the fear of mosquitoes and bugs. Should I go to the islands? Is there a better time of year? I’m allergic and can’t fathom dealing with them. The answer to all of these is simply planning and understanding.
There is no mosquito season in the tropics. They are always there. The population will blossom after heavy rains however. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water taking three days to hatch. This is why buckets, puddles and poor drainage should always be addressed immediately. Not every place has a comprehensive mosquito control plan either. I tip my hat to the Florida Keys Mosquito Authority. They do a fine job at making a once, almost unlivable string of islands, very comfortable.
Mosquitoes come out most prevalently at dusk and dawn. If you are sensitive to bits this is a good time to wear long sleeves and pants, even socks and shoes (the travesty!). Some merchants sell mosquito repellent clothing. I wore some while on safari in Africa and they worked very well. After a few washings however, the protection begins to fade. The most obvious protection is bug repellent.
DEET is the go to solution here. Invented in 1946 by the U.S. Army the stuff just works. There have been studies and concerns of its safety but my research just doesn’t support that, as long as you follow the label. You can over use and over do anything and make it bad. I can kill myself with rum but that doesn’t make it toxic. My biggest bitch about DEET is that it doesn’t smell nice and it has a greasy texture to it that makes me feel slimy and shiny. There are alternatives such as Caladryl and Skin So Soft but I’ve started hearing more about Picaridin.
Picaridin is a synthetic, like DEET, developed by BAYER in the 1990’s. It wasn’t approved for use in the U.S. until 2005 but at 7% strength it is largely ineffective. In 2008 that the government allowed strengths up to 20%, which is what is required to be comparative with DEET. New studies indicate both solutions are offer equivalent protection.
The great thing about Picaridin is that it isn’t greasy, it goes on much more dry and has little to no odor. Two positives in my book. It also has lower toxicity, being approved for use on children less than 12 months old. A huge positive in my book.
When I send my daughter to Africa in two weeks, she’ll have Picaridin and when I head to the USVI and BVI I’ll be packing Picaridin for myself. Bugs don’t bother me much, though the diseases that can be caught via a bite like Dengue Fever (common in the Caribbean) and Encephalitis are not on top of my list to experience. A little knowledge and prevention goes a long way.
Circling back to the bugs flying around your head at 4 a.m. I try to close my bedroom up, turn the A/C cold and hunt for mosquitoes before I go out. If I know a few too many rums and beer are the order of the night I may even set a glass of water by my bed ahead of time. Read my article on Hangovers from a few weeks ago. Otherwise, spray on some bug repellent (don’t try to repel the opposite sex) and enjoy the islands.
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