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Insects and Bugs Abroad

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 23 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Insects Bugs Bite Bug Bite Travel Health

Probably the last thing you want to think about during your gap year is an army of creepy crawlies slipping inside your bags, your shoes, or even your clothes, but insects and bugs abroad will demand your attention.

At the very least insects and bugs can leave you bitten and uncomfortable, but their power extends far beyond a few bites. Insects and bugs can pass along life-threatening diseases, so guarding against them is essential. Take the necessary precautions, and hopefully you won't become their first feast.

Insects and Bugs Abroad

You may encounter a variety of insects and bugs abroad, some common or similar to those in the UK and some so exotic you may never have heard of them!

A few of the insects or bugs you may meet include; ants, assassin bugs, bees, beetles, butterflies, deer flies, fire ants, fleas, gnats/midges, house flies, lice, mites, moths, mosquitoes, sand flies, spiders, ticks, true flies, tsetse flies and wasps.

Insect and Bug Borne Diseases

Probably the nicest thing an insect or bug bite will give you is a simple allergic reaction. Unfortunately, much more can be passed via these bites including serious diseases. Just a few of the diseases known to originate from insects and bugs abroad include:
  • Malaria - transmitted by mosquitoes.
  • Yellow Fever - transmitted by mosquitoes.
  • Dengue Fever - transmitted by mosquitoes.
  • Typhus Fever - transmitted by ticks and lice.
  • West Nile Virus - transmitted by mosquitoes.
  • Plague - transmitted by fleas.
  • Japanese Encephalitis - transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks.
  • Lyme Disease - transmitted by ticks.
  • Leishmaniasis - transmitted by sand flies.
  • Chagas Disease - transmitted by assassin bugs.
  • Sleeping sickness - transmitted by tsetse flies.

Avoiding Insect and Bug Borne Diseases

Thankfully, much is known about the diseases passed by insects and bugs and several immunisations do exist. Before you travel, discuss with your GP or local travel clinic the areas you will be visiting and solicit their advice on the travel immunisations including those for: Japanese encephalitis, Malaria (tablets) and Yellow Fever.

Once you are travelling, there are many precautions you can take against insects and bugs. Every day make sure you wear insect repellent and cover up with trousers and long sleeved shirts, it is also a good idea to tuck your trouser into your socks and shoes to create a barrier. Wear a cap to protect your head and wear light coloured clothing that will make spotting an insect or bug easier.

Check yourself every day in the shower for new bites or bugs, if you do spot any bites or have a persistent fever or rash you should seek medical assistance immediately. Sleep under mosquito netting if advised and do remember to take your anti-malarial tablets as directed.

Treating Insect and Bug Bites

Some insect and bug bites will be harmless enough that you can treat them yourself by applying ice to the site, cleaning the site with soap and water and taking an antihistamine tablet or cream. Unfortunately, many people suffer from severe allergic reactions to insect and bug bites, so seeking medical help is necessary if you experience:
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain or tightness in the chest.
  • Wheezing or laboured breathing.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Physical weakness.
  • Racing or slowed heart rate.
If you are uncertain of the type of insect or bug that bit you, you will need to keep a close eye on the bite. Seek medical help if:
  • The bite becomes infected.
  • The bite is on your tongue or in your mouth.
  • You receive multiple bites.
  • Bites lead to a large or bulls-eye shaped rash.
  • You suffer from an open wound.
  • You become feverish.
  • You just don't feel right and it would put your mind at ease to see a medical professional.
Insects and bugs abroad can wreak havoc on your health, but there are a number of ways to protect yourself from them. Depending on where you are travelling during your gap year, ask your GP or local travel clinic for advice on common insects and bugs and if there are any health travel advisories for the areas. And don't forget to pack the insect repellent!

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