Africa is so amazingly diverse, if you can imagine it - we have it somewhere. (As well as a lot off stuff that people find hard to imagine!) Be it a lazy, tropical Island breakaway or a hard core, adrenaline filled adventure - I will do my best to help you get the most out of your holiday. Seeing that this blog is a brand new project - it will take a while to grow. If you have a particular destination in mind that has not been featured yet, just send me a mail and I will assist in any way possible. Postings on this blog are based on personal experience. I plan to rate places and venues visited on a 'must go' or 'avoid' basis. I will also give a Lemon Award to the very worst festering pits that I have had the misfortune of stumbling across... If you have a comment, or your own input - lets have it! Complaints and compliments received from readers will be forwarded to the relevant venue for comment and/or follow up action. Please bear in mind that opinions expressed in this blog are my personal views only and I do not presume to know everybodys tastes... Any other advice dispensed is based on personal experience, and may not be factually correct. I therefore will not be held responsible if you do something silly after reading my advice on the matter. My main purpose here is to help you to think and plan in the right directions. I trust that you will have as much fun visiting this blog as I plan to have while writing the posts.

Wednesday 25 April 2007

Preventing the bite.

As you all may or may not know, malaria is caused by a parasite that is transferred into the blood stream during a mosquito bite. When in a malaria risk area, it does not mean that every single mosquito has the malaria parasite, ready to deliver into your unsuspecting veins. The occurrence of malaria mosquitoes are often as low as one malaria mosquito for every thousand in a specific area – before you start relaxing, remember that they all bite, so it’s purely a matter of time….

Anti - Malaria pills (prophylactics)
An absolute must! This is so important that I am not even going to waste time elaborating on it.
Simply put: just go to your doctor and get a prescription. People visiting a malaria risk area for longer than 3 months should discuss this with the doctor as long term use of malaria pills may have side effects. Malaria pills often have disagreeable side effects and the kidneys and liver take serious punishment with some kinds of pills.

Other precautions:
If for some reason you decide not to get the malaria pills, all is definitely not lost. I personally never take them and have been fortunate so far in avoiding malaria while people around me were dropping like flies… I believe this is because I religiously follow all the steps below (especially the g&t part!)

Also remember that special care should be taken close to water and swamps, at sundown and when there is no wind.

Tony’s malaria avoidance plan

Malaria is no joke, take my word for it, or do a little bit of research. I don’t want to scare anybody so I’ll leave out the horror stories, but this is a serious risk that can be easily avoided with a little care:

The best way to prevent malaria is simply to avoid the bite… This can be done by taking the following precautions:

Mozzy net
Unless you are going to a resort that specifies mosquito nets, it is always a good idea to have one handy. They retail for around R100-00 in SA (roughly $15 US) are light and compact when folded up. Rather risk never having to use it than be stuck somewhere without it.

Use lots of insect repellent!
A definite must! If you can find a product (spray or stick) called Peaceful Sleep , get some. Out off all the chemical repellents, I find it works the best and should be your first line of defence in case one of the buggers gets through…. Spray it on as many times a day as you like, but make sure you’re well covered as the evening approaches and at night. It may initially have a strong smell, but it’s a small price to pay if you consider the alternative… (It can most definitely be used as an alternative to MACE – powerful stuff!)

Also look out for some of the herbal alternatives (to compliment the Peaceful Sleep, not always 100% effective). If you can get soap, aqueous creams, or spray with Citronella and Lemon grass as ingredients, grab it! There is a product available that is a citronella and lemongrass oil based sun block. Just spray it on twice a day and you’re covered! (Still looking for their site, will update this as soon as I find it.)
The glycerine based citronella soap has a fresh, crisp smell and offers a reasonable amount of protection. It also makes your hair feel nice and soft if you choose to use it as a shampoo…

Take particular care that your arms, legs, hands (including the back of your fingers) and feet are well sprayed! These are the mozzy target areas. Best is to make sure your whole body is covered. The aqueous cream lotion is also good for the skin in general, and you can always get someone to help you apply it all over after a shower…

Here is a link to a site that sells Citronella soap. I will update links as I find them on the web. Please contact me if I have not updated the links and you urgently need the info.

There are other forms of insect repellents available like:

Mosquito coils:
They give me a headache if used while I sleep, and they don’t always work – not worth it in my opinion.

Citronella oil candles:
Might as well get a few.

Anti mozzy wear

It is always a good idea to have a few light weight, loose fitting and long sleeve shirts when travelling in a malaria risk area. During the day when it’s hot, you can roll up your sleeves, but at sundown you can roll your sleeves down. I do not know why, but the mozzy attacks are always the worst right after sundown, especially if it is wind still. I call it ‘mozzy happy hour…’
If you get hold of the modern, light weight fishing shirts, they usually have a handy ‘flip-up’ collar for extra protection of the neck area.

This is a hard one, because it’s a terrible thing to have to wear long trousers/skirts in the African heat… I always go with shorts, and pleeenty mosquito repellent.

More bad news if you like wearing sandals. The sad fact is that feet and ankles are the main mozzy targets. Regular and liberal applications of repellent to the feet may do the trick, but ankle high boots and socks are the best option. This is generally true for all aspects of the footwear issue.

Anti mozzy diet

A very effective way of battling Africa’s nr.1 killer. (And you all thought it was the hippo…) Battling the mozzy through your diet has a lot of obvious advantages and one (or two) minor discomforts attached to it. Suffice it to say that as proven by the repellents, smell is a very effective agent…

Repel mozzys and humans alike, but lots of lovely garlic is a winner!

Gin and tonics (g&t’s):
Tonic Water contains quinine, which is used to combat malaria once in the blood. The gin helps to get the tonic down, thin the blood and I am sure that mozzys don’t like the smell of gin in your sweat either. Have a few during the day to keep the levels up, it refreshes like nothing else during hot days spent lazing in the sun…

Same as garlic. Beware: This is not an option for the feint hearted – over application may result in random bouts of uncivilized behaviour or other radical changes in behaviour. These attacks are usually short lived but can be extreme. Recovery is normally coupled with remorse and embarrassment. Liberal doses of g&t next to a swimming pool the next day will normally speed up recovery.

General precautions

Fans (wind):
If there is a fan nearby, switch it on. Mozzys have trouble flying in moving air, that’s why they are more active in wind still areas. If you have a ceiling fan in your room or chalet, keep it on, even if it means using an extra blanket. With the air constantly in motion over your bed, you are 100% sure of waking up bite free even without a mozzy net.

Keep the fly sheets zipped up at all times, don’t let them sneak in during the day.

Keep the windows closed when the car is standing still, especially at night. Nothing worse than being repeatedly bitten by all the mozzys that were hiding beneath your car seats during the next day’s driving!

Take special care at sunset (as well as the rest of the night) and wear protective clothing if possible. Always try to apply a fresh layer of insect repellent just before sunset.
Once, while camping on the banks of the Zambezi River (that year there was some of the worst mosquito action I’ve ever encountered), we got into the habit of spending sundown and the two hours after in our tents toasting another fine day with g&t’s. Later a breeze would come up and we could go sit outside by the campfire.

Ok, that about sums it up for now. I will appreciate any comments you may have regarding this article.

Remember: malaria doesn’t have to be an issue; a little discipline is all it takes!


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