x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Travelling with Kids: Plan ahead for the mosquito menace

When mosquitos attack while on holiday with a toddler, be sure to have the right repellent.

"Zeppelins," my husband says, charging out of the bathroom with an appalled look on his face. "There are mosquitos in here the size of zeppelins."

Despite having travelled for almost 12 hours from Abu Dhabi to the Karpaz Peninsula, a sliver of land that extends the coastline of Northern Cyprus, where donkeys reportedly roam and electricity is not always certain, he looks as if he wants to turn around and go home. Only my 13-month-old is happy, having seen a whole litter of stray cats outside the guest house waiting to be chased.

"We probably just need to air the room," I say, lying, but the large aerosol of mosquito spray and plug-in insecticide sitting on top of the fridge tell a different story. Of course, I've packed a small can of mosquito repellent, thrown into the suitcase at midnight "just in case". Unfortunately, I haven't read the fairly large print that says it's for tropical mosquitos and only suitable for children over three years old. "We can't use it," I say. "Otherwise the mosquitos will eat the baby alive." Faced with the powerful logic of guilt, we resign ourselves to being dive-bombed by whining insects all night.

Sure enough, the next morning, every inch of my exposed skin has served as a mosquito's picnic blanket and I count patches of six or seven bites. My husband runs out of patience after finding 15 lumps on his arms alone. Baby meanwhile is covered in tiny red spots on her face and arms (the rest has been covered by a sleeping bag), leaving me to ponder whether the mattress she is sleeping on is infested with bed bugs. We slather ourselves in antihistamine lotion but leave baby's bites alone as she is still more interested in the cats than anything else, including eating any breakfast.

Eventually, we find a pharmacist who recommends a roll-on insect repellent with citronella and Indian lilac, a snip at €15 (Dh79) for 75ml. Being a natural repellent, it is effective for only two hours and so, with hindsight, I would have been better off packing a mosquito net large enough to cover a cot, and some long-sleeved light pyjamas. Oh, how I love hindsight.

Karpaz's mosquitos don't carry deadly diseases but I'm still tempted to seek out a chemical repellent that provides more protection for our next European adventure. Health experts recommend a very careful and sparing application of low concentration DEET-based repellents, following the manufacturer's instructions and avoiding the eyes, mouth, hands and broken skin on babies over the age of two months. It's also important to wash the skin with soap and water to prevent any toxic build-up from repeated applications.

Then again, if baby remains undistracted by insect bites, I might simply baste my husband in mosquito-attracting perfumes and join baby under the mossie net for the night.

cdight@thenational.ae