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Attack of the Mosquitos - How to avoid getting bitten

Monday 9 July 2012

When I was in Florence, I got bitten by a nasty little critter down by the river. By the time I left Florence and arrived in Rome, the bite was stomach-churningly disgusting. It had formed a huge amber blister, the likes of which I'd never seen. One morning, I woke up and leapt from the bed... and promptly fell to the floor as my leg buckled beneath me. I couldn't put any weight on it at all.

So off we popped to the Roman A&E, where I was separated from my friends and led off my a doctor who spoke no English. This isn't a complaint, you understand. I know I was in Italy. But it did make for a slightly nerve wracking few minutes when I was stabbed in the ass with a needle filled with an unknown drug.

Were they putting me down? Was it a sedative, to calm me down before the cut off my leg at the knee? I cursed my inability to speak Italian.

In retrospect, I'm fairly certain it was an antihistamine. Or a steroid? I still don't know. And it didn't really do much, to be honest. I continued to hobble around Rome, feeling slightly sorry for myself.

When we landed in Barcelona a few days later, it had grown to what can only be described as repulsive proportions. We were stood in a bar off La Ramblas, and a man crouched down on the floor next to me, pointed at my leg and cried

"What the HELL is that?"

He then proceeded to make disgusted noises at me for several minutes. I was not amused.

These reactions from strangers are far from rare, unfortunately. Since Florence I've had several of these radioactive monster bites, the last of which popped up last year just before a friend's wedding. So my outfit was completed by a huge, ugly white bandage on my calf. An incident later in the evening meant that I was dancing on one leg, in agony, and I was back in A&E the next day.

As I stood in the pharmacy afterwards, another man crouched to my side to inspect what he called "the most horrific thing he'd ever seen". He couldn't get over it. He was calling people over to have a look, and my mum was chatting away to him like they were old friends. I was furious. I would have stomped off if I had full use of my leg. Instead I hobbled off, angrily.

All of which leads me to - insect repellents.

I've just been trialling Don't Bite Me, the insect repelling patches that promise to reduce the human odours that are attractive to insects. They last for 36 hours, and work by feeding vitamin B1 into your blood stream, which apparently disgusts biting insects so much they'll leave you alone.

I tested them out in Paphos, when I wanted to avoid the inside of a hospital for the duration of my holiday.

You pop them on and they look a little like a nicotine patch. They need a hairless part of the body (I won't tell you where mine were, but I did want to avoid an odd tan mark) and to be applied two hours before you go outside, which takes a bit of organisation.

Abs. Of. STEEL.

Because I was paranoid about being bitten horrendously, I also spritzed some repellent on. So I can't be 100% that these did the trick. What I can tell you is that in the few hours I went without a patch, I was bitten to buggery.

They're well worth a try if you suffer badly from bites. A pack of 10 is £9.99 and you can buy them at (unfortunately you can't yet buy them in Ireland)

Of course, if you're heading somewhere Malarial, you'll need something else (as well as a good course of antimalarials). This is the time when I say to hell with my usual green tendencies, and get the most potent, Deet filled horror that I can.

Back in Ireland (where the midges are just as persistent) I use Colibri spray, which has the most gorgeous scent. A quick sniff brings me right back to summers past, barbeques and white wine in Leitrim.

Do you have any fail safe tips to avoid bites?

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