They are everywhere and they might carry bad and dangerous diseases like Malaria, Dengue and Zika, depending a bit on where you are. Costa Rica has Dengue and Zika but presently no Malaria. Dengue is a common disease, perhaps not all over Costa Rica, but certainly in the corner where we are staying now. Since we started volunteering at the Jaguar Rescue Center, there were at least six people who got sick with it. Another three also had, but before we arrived. Probably, staying in the forest of La Ceiba has reduced our chances of getting it.
1) Put on the anti-mosquito. Duh! The only stuff that really works contains DEET. Read the small print to see how long it lasts. It depends on the percentage of DEET in the product. Ours lasts about 6 hours so we apply it three times per day. We have in the meantime used multiple liters of the stuff. Hopefully, the stuff does not turn out to be a carcinogen. It costs a fortune but if you can afford it, it beats two weeks in bed, high fever, nausea, pain everywhere and so on.
But be aware, if the mosquito’s are really desperate, they will find a spot on your skin that you overlooked. We have been bitten on our hands, because typically you wash them after applying the DEET.
2) Use anti-mosquito nets at night. Bring one if you’re not sure whether they will be provided. So far, all houses that we visited had them or had windows with anti mosquito meshes. Only last week in Tortuguero did we need to use it in a hotel. They had the nets on the windows, but then mosquito’s can still get in. And once in, they are not likely to get out of the room.
3) Wear loose fitting clothes, preferably with long sleeves and trunks. Also, I read that darker colors attract more mosquito’s than lighter ones. Unfortunately, if you go on a hike and want to see animals, you’d better wear dark clothes. Perhaps khaki colored are a nice middle ground.
4) Don’t scratch, or only once. It’s hard. I know. Try to focus on something else and you’ll be surprised how quickly you forget about the itch.
5) Bring an antihistamine cream. If the bites get very itchy, the cream may help.
For us, these strategies have worked quite well. Have we been stung? Yes, perhaps once every two days. Sometimes we forget to apply the DEET. Sometimes we overlooked a spot. Sometimes they sting straight through your clothes, or through the clothes and the hammock. However, I am pretty sure, things would have been much worse without the measures.