Roatan Insider Tips: Mosquitoes, Malaria, and Dengue

People often ask me if they should take anti-malarial medication while visiting Roatan. While Dengue Fever and Malaria can be contracted here, both are quite rare. I did have Dengue Fever last year, which was caused by these “turdwad” mosquitoes (watch the video). I had been here for two years when I got it, so I’m going to venture to say those of you visiting for a week have an unbelievably low chance of getting either disease.

I do not recommend taking anti-malarial medication while visiting Roatan. The medication can mess with you much more than the odds of you actually getting Malaria. Most doctors tell you not to bother, but I have had people tell me their doctor recommended it for some reason. I would guess that doctor is probably unfamiliar with Roatan and simply assumed anywhere in Central America could be problematic. Make your own medical decisions as I am no professional, but if you’re asking my advice: you don’t need anti-malarial medication on Roatan.

However, there are mosquitoes here. And they are terrible little bastards! So you should also use lots of bug repellent while you’re here. OFF is the island perfume of choice in Roatan – our Eau de DEET as we call it. It’s effective and easily obtainable in every mini-mart on the island. You can’t avoid the mosquitoes in a tropical area, but you can try to coexist as best you can, despite their being horrible little creatures.

Check out this informative and interesting video to learn more about who they bite and why! You can (and should) subscribe to the SciShow YouTube channel for more fascinating videos.

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13 thoughts on “Roatan Insider Tips: Mosquitoes, Malaria, and Dengue

  1. If you don’t want to have to constantly bathe in DEET, permethrin-treated clothing helps quite a bit. You can buy either pre-treated garments or spray for DIY at most outdoor equipment sellers. The spray is a better deal in my opinion and a single treatment will last several washings of the clothes since it actually binds to the fibers. When dry, it’s non-toxic and odorless (to humans anyway – the mosquitoes apparently think it smells really bad!). In mild to moderate mosquito territory, a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, and a hat treated with permethrin is usually enough to keep the mosquitoes away from me entirely. In places where they are a little more hard-core, some repellant on the exposed skin areas is still needed, but you don’t need nearly as much.

    I spray permethrin on the interior of my truck as well and it keeps the mosquitoes out of it when loading and unloading gear. If one does happen to fly in, I find it quite amusing watching it desperately trying to find its way out!

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  2. Wow, While many of your posts may have had some merit to some I am simply amazed at this one where you, with as far as we know, no medical training, no work in the health community, decide to go against what the CDC and Health Canada recommends ad recommend people NOT take Anti Malarials. Chloroquine has been tested for decades and approved for long term use, What exactly are your qualifications to give any health care advice even if it is simply an opinion? If giving such opinion you should let people know your opinion is not the same as the largest health care organizations in the world. You also mention Doctors not wanting to prescribe anti Malaria meds?? Please can you cite this for us because every doctor I know that is informed with travel meds does suggest anti Malaria meds if for nothing else, liability, Malari is live and well, Maybe you have not yet had the pleasure to help Miss Peggy at her place or visit other clinics , How Irresponsible to gibe what appears as medical advice even if it say somewhere its your opinion ,

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    • It had been a while since your last negative comment…I was beginning to wonder where you’d gone!

      As stated in this specific blog, I am not a medical professional and this is my personal opinion. This entire site is based on my opinion – it’s a blog. If people didn’t want my personal advice, they wouldn’t come here. However, seeing as I live here I often receive the same questions over and over again. This is one of them. And considering the thousands of people who visit Roatan every day who do not contract malaria or dengue, I’m fairly certain I’m well within my rights to point that out. Additionally, I have had multiple people tell me their doctors told them it was up to them to take the medication or not, including my own before I came here in 2012. The risk is not high in the Bay Islands, it is moderate. In a moderate risk area not all doctors recommend taking medications that can often cause unwanted side effects. If people want medical advice they will obviously seek out a medical professional. If they want my personal opinion they come to my personal blog. Not sure where that gets misconstrued as you read, but clearly you’re missing that vital component.

      And, yes, I am familiar with Miss Peggy’s clinic. And, yes, as stated I myself became ill with dengue. I clearly pointed out that it exists here and you run the risk of getting either disease. I still say you do not need to take the anti-malarial medication that may or may not actually prevent malaria. Personally (again, my blog, my opinion…) I say just drink more gin and tonics instead.

      Always a pleasure!

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  3. Of course no one NEEDS to take any health precautions to visit Honduras BUT some misinformed folks think you have some type of inside knowledge with the blog and living here, even if living illegally on a tourist visa , Problem is many accept that you are knowledgable yet there is likely not one single doctor in Canada or the USA that would suggest not using anti malaria meds, Why? Because of liability of course. Any Doctor not recommending Anti Malaria Meds is opening him or herself up to a multitude of lawsuits, You seem to suggest there are doctors that do not recccoment anti malaia meds for visitors, I would love to know who these docs are that are willing to put all their training and practice on the line

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    • And that’s one of the reasons why I love living here: nobody worries about getting sued over absolutely everything. The doctor I spoke to told me exactly what I stated in my last comment to you: there is moderate risk so it was entirely up to me if I wanted to take the meds or not. Having seen all kinds of crazy reactions to anti-malarial meds while I lived in Ecuador, I opted out entirely. Which is also what thousands of people choose to do every day here. Anyone who’s super concerned about getting malaria can simply choose to take the medication. It’s that simple.

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  4. A local doctor on Roatan telling you he or she does not suggest anti malarial is a far cry from your post saying “Most doctors tell you not to bother”, Most visitors to Roatan have a local doctor where they live and throughout Europe and North America the vast majority of Doctors will recommend an antimalarial which, just like aspirin, can have some side effects but they are non existent or very minimal for most people taking them. CDC, Health Canada, BC Centre for Disease Control, ECDC etc… all recommend anti malarial meds for a reason, visitors to Roatan cannot donate blood for a reason

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    • You did not read what I said. My doctor before coming here. As in a doctor in the U.S. I also said I’ve had many other people tell me the same thing: doctors tell you there is moderate risk and it is up to you if you’d like to take the pills or not.

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  5. Of course it is up to you, even in high risk areas it is a personal decision, measles vaccine is also personal decision as are most other meds but you said most doctors say not to bother which is very different., Very irresponsible to make up stories about how bad the side effects are when in reality they are very uncommon with chloroquine and even less common with malarone , also without knowing peoples health history to suggest anything other than speaking with doctor is in very poor judgment, of course this is just my opinion. Thank you for your medical advice

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  6. Amanda,
    I just returned to the states from Roatan. We stayed in the Coral Vistas, ate at Dix, drank the water (no meds included) as well as tequila, and fell in love with everyone, especially your neighbor Raymond Ebanks, official guide and transportation. We are currently in the process of relocating to the island. I love your blog. Common sense and island structure, or lack there of. I too enjoy lack of fear and negativity and embrace the peace of the island people, the ocean and personalities that are drawn to both. It is a world where kindness continues. Good news…I am a ED/ Trauma/ ICU RN of many years and am currently researching legalities of practice in Honduras. My desire is to set up an emergency clinic in the West End/ West Bay area. I have 2 friends that are physicians, both familiar with the island that will accompany me. If you have any thoughts or hints for a successful transition, I would love to hear them. (All others please kindly hold negativity and allow my excitement).I currently am planning a return in August and will attempt to connect with you then.
    Heather

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    • Hi Heather! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, your excitement is contagious! I’m very happy for you and would love to help any way I can. An emergency clinic would be very welcome so I hope you’re able to get that up and running! Don’t be afraid to reach out as you’re making plans, random questions always come up. Hint: you don’t need to bring tons of shoes, but you should bring whatever beauty products you really like from home as you may not be able to find the same ones here. 🙂 Welcome to the good life!!

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