I was recently in Labuan Bajo, the Indonesian city which serves as the launching point for tourists who wish to see the famous komodo dragons. Our hostel was the best hostel I have ever stayed at save for one key aspect: mosquito nets. Not only were the nets full of holes, but as I watched the others in my room go to sleep not a single person set theirs up correctly. I sent a grumpy tweet about this, and every response I got was from people saying they have no idea how to set up a net!
A lifetime ago, I worked on malaria issues in rural Senegal. I literally spent two years of my life talking to people about proper bed net usage in a job that I absolutely loved, so this topic is my time to shine!
Anyways: in order to have a functioning mosquito net you…....tuck it in under the mattress.
It's very simple!
Think about it: if the net is hanging loosely - like it was over every single person in our Labuan Bajo hostel – mosquitoes can just fly right on in and bite you. Unfortunately, the same problem exists when there are holes in the net. For a short-term fix, you can use a rubber band or a hair tie to try and close the holes. For long-term fixes, you should sew the holes shut (or just buy a new net and use the old one to protect your garden from bugs. Either way!).
So yes, the next time you find yourself traveling in an area that has mosquito nets, ensure that you tuck them in under the mattress.
Proper bed net usage isn’t the only important aspect of keeping yourself safe from mosquito-born illnesses while traveling. Make sure to take malaria prophylaxis (medicine that prevents malaria) properly for your trip, and carry malaria pills (or dengue or whatever disease is in the area you are in) with you in case the nets aren’t enough. The analogy I like to use – it’s not exactly medically correct but good enough – is that the net is like a condom, and the pills are like, well, the pill. Individually, they should be enough, but if you’re using both you are almost surely to be in the clear.
Finally, following these rules are not only paramount for your safety but also for the safety of the locals. Mosquito-born illnesses are passed from person to person. If you get malaria, you are almost certainly going to pass it to somebody else. Young children, old people, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to these illnesses, and you don’t want to potentially harm anybody else because you did not practice good health tips. Malaria alone is one of, if not the, biggest killer in all of human history. I have seen malaria first-hand and it is horrible. Please do not contribute to this deadly cycle.
So tuck your nets in. Take your pills. And have a fabulous time!