Mosquitoes, spiders and scorpions (things that bite)

Mosquitoes can be a major irritant in hot countries. As well as delivering painful, itchy bites they also can spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika and dengue which can be fatal. So if you’re travelling to a hot country it’s important to find out if you need any special vaccinations or to start a course of malaria treatment before you go. You can find this out from the Travel Health Pro and NHS Fit for Travel websites.

Mosquitoes

In 2015 nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria and it was prevalent in over 90 countries around the world, according to the World Health Organisation. It takes just a single mosquito bite for someone to become infected but many cases of malaria are avoidable. NHS Choices offers the advice below on how to avoid malaria.

Safer Tourism mosquitoes checklist

The symptoms of malaria include a high temperature, sweats and chills, headaches, vomiting, muscle pains and diarrhoea. You can find out more about malaria on the NHS Choices website.

For information on how to avoid mosquito bites, Public Health England has published a useful 2-page guide.

Other insects

Mosquitoes are not the only insects you need to watch out for in hot countries. Flies such as black flies, sand flies and Tsetse flies can all transmit disease as can bugs, ticks and fleas. There are various insect repellents you can use to protect yourself. Other preventative measures include staying in accommodation with screening, using a mosquito bed net and staying in air conditioned accommodation.

If you do get bitten or stung you should:

  • Remove the sting or tick if it’s still in the skin with tweezers
  • Wash the affected area with soap and water
  • Apply a cold compress (such as a flannel) or an ice pack to any swelling for at least 10 minutes
  • Raise the affected area to help reduce any swelling
  • Avoid scratching the area
  • A mild steroid cream and antihistamine tablets can help relieve itching.

If your symptoms don’t improve after a few days or you’re worried seek medical advice.

For more on how to prevent stings and bites and insect repellents see the NHS Choices and Travel Health Pro websites.

Snakes

The best way to avoid a snake bite is to avoid snakes. They like to bask in the sun on rocky ground or clearings in the forest and once active they often hide underneath rocks or beneath vegetation. So it’s a good idea to keep your hands out of places such as fallen trees, hollow logs or rock crevices.

Snakes don’t tend to attack people but many bites are the result of people stepping on snakes. So if you are in an area where snakes are common it’s advisable to have good footwear and not wear sandals or go bare foot.

If you’re camping out check your clothing and bedding for snakes, spiders and other insects as they often like to crawl into these to keep warm.

If you’re bitten by a snake:

  • remain calm and don’t panic
  • try to remember the shape, size and colour of the snake
  • keep the part of your body that’s been bitten as still as possible to prevent the venom spreading around your body
  • remove jewellery and watches from the bitten limb as they could cut into your skin if the limb swells
  • do not attempt to remove any clothing, but loosen it if possible
  • seek medical help immediately.

For more on what to and not to do if you are bitten see the NHS Choices website.

Spiders & scorpions

A bite or sting from a spider or scorpion can be very painful but it is not always poisonous. If you’re visiting a country where there are a lot of poisonous species it’s worth finding out where these are most commonly found and avoid these place. For example, Australia’s funnel web and red-back spiders have a reputation for lurking under toilet seats so it pays to check under these before taking a seat.

If you are bitten or stung by a spider or scorpion if at all possible you should catch or kill it so that you can identify the offender.

Bites and stings can be painful. To help relieve the pain:

  • Clean the wound with soap and water
  • Apply an antibiotic cream
  • Raise the area that’s been bitten to reduce swelling
  • Put an ice pack on the bite
  • Take a painkiller if necessary
  • Watch out for more serious symptoms.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you have any severe or worrying symptoms after a bite.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit can be useful especially if you’re going somewhere remote or where there may not be medical help nearby. For details of what to put in a first aid kit see our guide.