Mosquitoes and How to Survive Them

Posted on: April 26th, 2011 Posted by

Ah, mosquitoes, such wonderful little creatures – they have an appetite for blood and cause misery to thousands of people and animals each year. The word mosquito is actually used to describe around 3,000 different variations of the species.

If you are travelling to Europe, you probably already know that the species of mosquitoes which are  found on the continent do not carry deadly diseases, unlike their counterparts in other parts of the world. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the mosquitoes you may encounter in Europe. If you travels will take you further afield, be sure to ask your physician for advice regarding mosquito precautions.

How To Avoid Bites

Years of research has gone into studies of mosquito behaviour and the methods they use to hunt their prey. You might be surprised to find out that it is only the females of the species which drink the blood of mammals. This is because the female relies on elements such as iron to produce her eggs – and blood is an excellent source.

Mosquitoes usually carry out their hunting at night-time and in the early hours of the morning, although it is not unknown for them to bite if you disturb them at rest during the day. The mosquito uses highly specialised senses which pick up on the carbon dioxide exhaled by its victim, as well as movement, moisture and body heat. Studies have also shown that mosquitoes are also drawn to lactic acid, which is produced in our bodies when we exercise, and light colours.

To avoid getting bitten, the following guidelines should help :

DEET is probably the most common mosquito repellent, but many people are concerned about putting the side effects of putting this strong chemical on their skin. There are many natural alternatives available – tea-tree, lavender and citronella products are all said to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Mosquito repellent plug-ins and mosquito nets are a good way to protect yourself from bites while sleeping. If you find yourself without mozzie repellent, try spraying Listerine brand mouthwash around the house – a strange tip which is highly effective.

Stay away from areas of stagnant water, as mosquitoes use these as breeding grounds. If you are having a problem with mosquitoes, look in your immediate surroundings for any pools of water – the tiny predators are known to lay their eggs in small amounts of rain-water in plant pots or containers which have been left outdoors.

Wear dark clothing if you can, particularly during the danger times of dawn and dusk.

If you have been engaging in heavy physical activity, shower as soon as possible to cleanse away traces of sweat which act like magnets to mosquitoes. Some people say that sweet- scented fragrances and skin care products attract mozzies, so you may like to avoid those!

How To Soothe The Itch

Unfortunately for some of us, no matter what precautions we take, these little blood-suckers will still find a way to bite us. If you never get bitten, this might seem like a paranoid statement to make! Actually the fact that mosquitoes bite some people more than others is a well-known phenomenon. Studies into the subject have shown that people with Type O blood are more susceptible to mosquito bites, but there are, of course, always exceptions to the rule.

If you do happen to get bitten, it’s likely that the first thing you’ll know about it is when you that irritating itching starts. The itching itself is caused by an allergy to the mosquitoes saliva, which contains an anti-coagulant. Your reaction to the bite could vary from a small reddened swelling, to, in severe cases, bruising, blistering or scabs.

To treat mosquito bites, make sure you have an anti-histamine in your first aid-kit. This will help to counteract the allergic reaction and can save hours of discomfort and stress.

Other tricks which are said to work are rubbing a slice of onion on the bite, applying ice cubes or alternatively heat, using Aloe Vera gel or mixing a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water. Honestly,  there is no one solution which is guaranteed to stop the itch, so it is a case of trial and error! The methods mentioned here should at least soothe the irritation a little and allow you to relax.

Thoughts On Successful Self Catering

Posted on: April 18th, 2011 Posted by

Going on a self catering holiday is quite different from taking a half board or all inclusive hotel break. Self catering can be easier on your family budget than a hotel holiday and has the distinct advantage of giving you complete freedom to choose when and where you eat, allowing you to sample local delicacies and get a real taste of the country you are visiting. However, going self catering also means you need to arrange your own meals (that’s 21 meals for a week long vacation, presuming you eat three times a day!) – and this needs some forethought.

Planning for your holiday cookery should start even before you finalise your booking. It would be a mistake to assume that all self catering apartments, villas and cottages are close to a decent selection of facilities. Make heavy use of your favourite search engine and find out for yourself whether your chosen location has everything you need close by. Look for local supermarkets and find out whether you’ll be able to visit street markets(for food bargains), and if you plan to eat out at some stage during your holiday, read restaurant reviews. One worst case scenario, if you don’t do your research, is to find yourself staying in a remote area, with no shops or restaurants within walking distance. Obviously, if you plan ahead, you can arrange a hire car if you’ll need it, or you can rethink and choose an alternative location to stay at.

If at all possible, it will also help to find out what cooking facilities you will find in your accommodation. In most of the popular European tourist resorts, budget self catering accommodation is basic and not what you are used to at home – think minimal cooking utensils and a two ring cooker! If it isn’t possible for you to get your hands on this information, you can still prepare yourself by packing a few common essentials in your suitcase.

Probably the most valuable of these is a travel-sized kettle with a European adapter plug. These can be purchased at a reasonable price and will save you from having to boil pans of water each and every time you fancy a cuppa. Other useful tools to pack include a bottle-opener, small knife which can be used for peeling and preparing vegetables, and a can-opener for tinned products. Remember, to fit in with airline safety regulations, the sharp items must be carried in your suitcase. A good tip is to wrap these bits and pieces in a couple of tea-towels, as these are something else you may not find in your self catering accommodation.

Another aspect to bear in mind is the time of day, and date that you’ll be arriving at your accommodation. While arriving in the early hours of the morning might not be too bad in a tourist resort which caters for 24 hour lifestyles, getting to your destination at 3am on a Sunday in a mountain village could see you without shopping facilities for more than 24 hours… You should also find out about local festivals and feast-days, as these can also signal a complete close down on shops- leaving you without supplies! As a back-up plan, you might want to slip a few packet convenience foods into your luggage – look out for those which only need water added, such as pasta with sauce, Chinese noodles and dehydrated potato dishes. If you and your family enjoy dried fruit and nuts, add a few of those to your bag too, for a high energy snack.  And, if you are taking a travel kettle as suggested, remember a few tea-bags or coffee sachets, some milk-powder and sugar, if you take it – there is nothing more comforting after the stress of travel to be able to settle down in your holiday accommodation with a nice hot drink!

Ways To Make Your Flight More Enjoyable

Posted on: April 11th, 2011 Posted by

Whether you are a frequent flyer or take one vacation each year, getting to where you are going can at times be stressful and uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be that way however, and if you pack the right attitude and follow our tips, you might even start seeing the flight as part of your holiday.

* Since most budget airlines not longer provide meals during the flight, and the online selection of snacks is normally rather boring and expensive, packing your own snack to eat on board is a great way to save money. Taking food through check in is not a problem, providing you remember not to pack knives or other sharp object and purchase your drinks in the departure lounge as there are restriction in place as to the quantities of liquids that can be carried through security. Get as creative as you like with the food you pack, as long as it isn’t smelly or messy – the other occupants of the plane might not appreciate it too much if you start opening tins of sardines! Make delicious sandwiches and wraps, take fresh or dried fruit and nuts, and anything else you fancy to stave off those airborne hunger pangs!
* Pack a few moist wipes in your bag. These come in handy in a whole variety of situations and are great if you feel the need to refresh yourself a bit before landing.
* While dressing for comfort might sound like something your granny does, you’ll be able to enjoy your flight much more if you think ahead about what you wear. The temperature of planes can fluctuate, so dress in light layers, which you can take off or put on if you feel too hot or cold. An extra pullover, hooded sweater or cardigan will keep you snug, and if you want to take it off, it’ll fold up to make a lovely soft pillow! Shoes that you can slip on and off easily are a bonus, particularly if your feet swell when you fly, and avoid any clothes that feel restrictive, or have large buckles or fastenings, which could dig in when you are seated for a long duration.
* If you like to catch a few zs when you are travelling, consider packing an eye-mask and ear plugs. These two simple purchases will increase your comfort significantly – you’ll be thankful of the ear plugs if you happen to be on a flight packed with screaming youngsters! If the noise of flights is a real bother, and you travel on a regular basis, you may like to invest in sound-cancelling headphones, somewhat pricey, but a perfect way to create a haven of silence. Some people also like the inflatable travel pillows that are widely available to provide a support for your neck. If you invest in one of these, make sure you try it before you fly – you want a cushion that won’t deflate as you use it, and it’s best to avoid anything that is too big, as your fellow passengers won’t be impressed if you infringe on their space.
* Many people like to use the “lost time” of their flight to catch up on reading, and the latest technology of e-books means that it’s even easier to ensure you have something keep you amused. Whether you choose electronic books or printed pages, pick something that you never have time to read at home, and loose yourself in some fantastic fiction. Other popular ideas for keeping yourself entertained include an i-Pod or similar device packed full of interesting downloads and music to put you in a great mood.
* Bach Rescue Remedy is a fantastic natural medicine which is great for anyone who suffers nerves/jitters when flying. Available in liquid and pastille form, the blend of floral and plant essences can be taken before you even reach the airport, helping you to relax and enjoy the start of your holidays.

Are You Sun Protected?

Posted on: April 4th, 2011 Posted by

Whether you are going on a self catering holiday to Greece or spending your summer holidays in the UK, protecting your family from the sun is one of the most essential parts of proper skin care.

Some of our readers may remember that as recently as the 1970s and 1980s, we were largely unaware of the dangers that excessive exposure to the sun can create. You may even have memories of baking in the sun, smeared with baby oil, and even using sheets of aluminium foil to direct the rays of the sun onto your skin to deepen and intensify your tan. Despite a greater understanding of the connection between the sun and skin cancer, according to a quick Google search on the subject, some people are still choosing to fry their skin using the “foil and oil” method.

Excessive exposure to the sun – whether it is from relaxing on a sandy beach during your vacation or mowing the lawn in your back garden – can have devastating effects on the skin. Premature ageing, rough and dry patches, wrinkles and freckles can all be looked forward to by those who don’t use sunscreen or take proper precautions, not to mention the proven link with skin cancer…

Of course, the best way to protect your skin from the sun is not to tan, but, lets face it, who wants to come back from their holiday without a bit of healthy colour? Bear the following rules in mind when you are on your summer break, and protect yourself and your family.

Use Sunscreen

While a small amount of exposure to the sun is good for us (a reaction of the sunlight on our skin produces Vitamin D for the body to use), everyone in your family should be applying sunscreen frequently.

A waterproof skin protection cream with a minimum of Factor 25 has been suggested as a starting point, although parents may choose to use a total sunblock on kids. There are many, many different brands and formulas of sun protection available, from coloured and scented products aimed at encouraging children to apply their cream, to organic based lotions which are ideal for those who prefer not to use chemical based creams on their skin.

Sun protection cream needs to be applied to clean, dry skin 30 minutes before exposure to the sun in order to work properly. One mistake that people tend to make with sunscreen is to apply it sparingly – experts say we should be lathering it on liberally and rubbing it in well.

Throughout the day,  especially after swimming or sweating heavily, reapply your sunscreen as it can rub off and lose it’s effectiveness.

Cover Up

An cover up clothing such as hats, long sleeved tops and trousers can all help prevent sun burn. It is important to remember that if you can see through a garment when you hold it up to the light, the sun can get through! You should also consider investing in sunglasses which offer high UV protection. Wrap around styles are considered to be the best as they offer the most protection.

Shady Spots

Ever heard the saying “mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun”? This is a good one to bear in mind when you are on holiday and facing scorching temperatures on a daily basis. Take a hint from locals (and sensible dogs!) by staying in the shade throughout the hottest time of the day, usually between 10am – 4pm.

Sunburn and Sunstroke

If you, or a family member gets sunburnt, it is important to get them out of the sun right away – in addition to skin damage, sunburn can lead to a condition known as sunstroke. Focus on cooling the sunburn sufferer down and rehydrating them – think cool(but not cold) showers and lots of water to drink. Pain killers can be given to soothe the sting and it is beneficial to apply an aloe vera gel to assist healing.

Sunstroke is an extremely dangerous condition which can cause rapid deterioration and is the cause of unnecessary deaths every year. Symptoms include cramps, sweating, headache and rapid, weak breathing and pulse rate . Should you suspect that someone has the symptoms of sunstroke, seek medical attention immediately for treatment.