With the amount of news out there about the threat of Zika it’s hard to not be a little wary of traveling to Costa Rica. Mosquitos in Costa Rica are a problem, but don’t let that prevent you from traveling here. The threat level is in constant fluctuation. Sometimes there are outbreaks in certain areas and other times everything is quiet.
I assure you this is something the government is working really hard to eradicate. There are frequent sprays in areas with a high mosquito population and information is distributed to the population on a regular basis about the threat of standing water. By taking some of your own precautions you can greatly reduce your chance of contracting a mosquito-born illness.
Note: We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over two years and have only known one person to attract a mosquito-born illness.
- 1 Which illnesses do I need to worry about?
- 2 What can I do to protect myself?
- 3 Any final tips for me?
Which illnesses do I need to worry about?
There are three mosquito born illnesses you need to think about in Costa Rica. Let’s start with the one everyone is talking about.
A lot of people infected with Zika show almost no symptoms. You might not even know you have Zika. Some mild symptoms you may experience are conjunctivitis, fever, rash, muscle pain, headache or joint pain.
Treatment and Prognosis:
There is no set treatment. Drink plenty of fluids and get a lot of rest.
Note: If you think you have Zika you should definitely see a doctor especially if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant in the near future. Zika can cause birth defects.
Not a fun illness, but fun to say! Try saying Chikungunya three times fast. I bet you can’t. OK, back on a more serious topic.
Chikungunya is a somewhat new problem with mosquitos in Costa Rica. At this point, there have not been that many confirmed cases in comparison with Zika and Dengue.
Sudden fever and joint pain. Some people also experience exhaustion, a headache, joint swelling, and a rash.
Treatment and Prognosis:
There is no treatment besides letting it pass. Get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and take Paracetamol or Tylenol. You need to avoid aspirin until your doctor gives you the OK. Symptoms are close to Dengue and until that can be ruled out it could cause bleeding.
The pain can be debilitating but should pass within a few days to weeks. In certain cases, people experience joint pain for several months.
Dengue is widespread in tropical environments.
High fever and severe headaches, severe eye pain, mild bleeding (nose, gums etc.) muscle pain, joint pain, or rash.
If you are experiencing a high fever and any of these symptoms see a doctor immediately.
Treatment and Prognosis:
There is no specific treatment for Dengue. Plenty of rest and lots of fluids are the usual course of action. Most cases of Dengue do result in hospitalization for monitoring. This illness can kill you so please go to the doctor if you have any symptoms.
Patients generally recover in 2-7 days.
What can I do to protect myself?
There are several things you can do to protect yourself. Here is what has worked for us so far (fingers crossed it keeps working).
Avoid buggy situations:
Early evenings and early mornings seem to be the times with the most mosquitos in Costa Rica. Thomas and I are big fans of early evening dinners outside so we can watch the sunset. We make sure to put on bug spray and bring some back up with us if we will be outside during those times.
Spray yourself with a strong bug spray:
I know a lot of people don’t like the idea of using bug spray with Deet in it. I’m right there with you, but when it comes to getting Dengue or using Deet, I opt for Deet. The stronger the better in this situation (in my opinion).
If you know you will be in a buggy area, cover your skin. Wear long sleeve shirts, pants and shoes. For me, my feet are mosquito’s favorite food. I always make sure my feet and ankles are completely covered when I’m in a buggy area.
Keep them at bay:
Here are some of our favorite products for keeping mosquitos away.
Any final tips for me?
Well, yes actually, thanks for asking! We do have a few more tips for you.
- Buy bug spray before you come to Costa Rica. It tends to be about double the cost it is in the US. If you are interested in the mosquito coils. I found some here for less than a dollar recently. You have to remember that things which are imported have a 30% tax, so in general bug spray will be at least 30% more here.
- You are not allowed to fly with aerosol cans in your luggage. Make sure to buy a regular spray can instead of aerosol.
- If you bring your bug spray with you make sure to put it in a sealed ziplock bag for the flight. Trust me, getting the smell of bug spray out of everything you own is not fun.
- Check out the CDC website to stay up to date on disease info.
- Purchase travel insurance before your trip. Travel insurance can be a lifesaver (literally) while traveling. If you do come down with a mosquito-transmitted illness you will want to have the option of getting immediate medical care. We love World Nomads for travel insurance. You can read all about our experience using this company here.