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Avoiding Insect Bites

Biting insects e.g. ticks, mosquitos, can carry diseases such as malaria, dengue fever etc. Some insects bite during the day, others in the evening . Insects may bite indoors or outdoors. Avoiding bites is your main protection from disease, and is often your only protection e.g. Dengue fever.

Insect Behaviour





Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water

Attracted by carbon dioxide, lactic acid, body heat, odours and movement.


Long grassy areas

Attach themselves to the clothing of a human as they brush past. They crawl up the clothing until they find an area of exposed skin.

Sand flies


Most active between dusk and dawn but will, however, bite during daylight hours if disturbed.

Tsetse flies

Dense vegetation & savannah areas

Attracted to dark, contrasting colours, particularly the colour blue.

Are less affected by repellents


Insect Repellent

Insect repellent, applied directly to exposed skin, should be used at all times in areas of risk. Repellents should be applied over sunscreens. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use to minimise the risk of adverse skin reactions.

The effectiveness of repellents varies (15 mins - 12 hours) depending on: type of repellent, local conditions (e.g. humidity), individual susceptibility, loss due to sweating, sensitivity of the insects to repellents. Insects will always choose to bite someone without repellent over someone with repellent.

Depending on where your location and the activities undertaken e.g. field work, trekking etc., you may also want to consider using:

Barrier methods


Mosquito nets

Tip: carry a small sewing kit so that minor repairs can be made if the net develops a hole.


Insecticides irrritate or kill insects before they manage to feed. Permethrin (a pyrethroid) is the insecticide of choice as it doesn't degrade in sunlight so is particularly suitable for ouutdoor use. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use to gain maximum effect.

Insecticide vaporisers have deterrent, irritant-repellent, and insecticidal effects.

Treatment of Insect Bites

Reduce swelling with by skin application of a mild anti-inflammatory cream or gel. Antihistamine tablets can be taken to relieve itching. Try to avoid scratching and keep the wound clean and dry to avoid the risk of infection.

Tick / Sting Removal

Ticks - using tweezers or specially designed tick removers grasp the tick near to the skin and pull whilst twisting it slightly. It is important that the whole tick is removed without leaving any mouth parts embedded in the skin.

Stings - Place the edge of a dull table knife firmly against your skin next to the embedded stinger. Applying constant firm pressure, scrape the knife across your skin surface and the stinger. This removes the stinger without injecting more venom, which is what happens when you remove the stinger with tweezers or your fingers.

OHS September 2005