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by Max Lent

© 2003 Max Lent

The only place I have traveled to where insects were never an issue was London. In the wee hours of the night in London just after getting off a transatlantic flight we strolled around the neighborhood of our awful little hotel looking for an open restaurant. The night was warm and balmy. Bright street lamps lighted the streets and the storefronts had lit signs. Under these conditions I expected to see hundreds or thousands of insects hovering around the streetlamps, but not a single one was seen. The experience was eerie. We had stumbled into an environment so well controlled by humans that insects had been eliminated. This section of London had been biologically purified.

London was the exception. Everywhere else in the world I have traveled insects have been part of the travel and sleep experience, at least during the summer. Biting insects are omnipresent in the tropics and other parts of the world during warm months. Depending on where you are biting insects can be more or less dangerous. Mosquitoes carry any number of parasites that can kill or seriously maim you.

The incessant whine of what could be a malaria infected mosquito or mosquitoes in your ear as you lay in bed in the middle of the night is guaranteed to keep you awake better than caffeine. Mosquito bites from a day of exposure in a forest can itch so badly as to make sleep impossible. Chigger bites can also drive a normal person a little crazy in the middle of the night. Bee stings can be fatal to those who allergic to the stings. Allergies to insect bites vary a great deal depending on the insect and the person. For example, my wife if more allergic to some mosquito bites than others. Then there are spiders and scorpions whose bites can range from painful to deadly. Just worrying about insects and arachnids can keep some people from sleeping.

If you are traveling in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent, such as the tropics or temperate regions during the summer, take the following precautions. When you check into a hotel that is not air-conditioned look at the screens on the windows, if there are any. If there are any holes in the screens you can be assured that mosquitoes are in your room. Plug the holes in the screen first. Moist toilet paper will work for small holes. Chewing gum will work to plug separations between the screen and window frame. The mosquitoes already in your room will be hiding in the darkest places they can find. These places will include the space under the bed, behind furniture, in the bathroom, and in the closet. Mosquitoes look for dark damp places to rest during the day. They will come out from their hiding places during the night to feed on you.

There are several methods available to keep mosquitoes from feeding on you in your hotel room during the night. The most effective method is to stay in a nicer hotel. Nicer hotels will be air-conditioned and more hermetically sealed. If you keep your room cold enough even the hungriest mosquitoes will be foiled by the fact that they canít fly or do much of anything below a certain temperature. Sometimes you have no choice and you will have to sleep in a room where you know there are mosquitoes. Under this circumstance you can blast the room with an insect killing aerosol spray. You will have to decide for yourself if the health risks of exposing yourself to the spray are more or less dangerous than the diseases carried by the mosquitoes in the room. Even if there are no known health risks associated with the mosquitoes you may still want to consider the value of a night of uninterrupted sleep.


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