Visit Cuba and you’re sure to experience sun, sand, beach, and…oh yeah, mosquitoes and sand fleas.
Although Cuba is generally a safe country to visit, mosquitoes in Cuba still represent a health hazard for travelers. Cuba’s year-round heat and humidity, the country’s poor infrastructure and waste management practices, and the Government’s lack of access to newer tools for mosquito control are all factors that contribute to frequent mosquito-borne diseases outbreaks.
If you’re planning a trip to Cuba Cuba, you probably wonder whether mosquitoes or sand fleas in Cuba may ruin your vacation. That’s a legit question that we thoroughly answer in this article. We put together a handy guide to help you stay safe from mosquitoes and sand fleas.
How Bad Are Mosquitoes in Cuba?
Mosquito bites may be pretty bad in Cuba. But how many mosquitoes you encounter depends on when you travel to Cuba as well as what parts of Cuba you visit.
Although in recent years the government has stepped up its efforts to fight mosquitoes in Cuba, mosquito-borne illnesses outbreaks are still quite common.
As a visitor, mosquitoes and sand fleas can also be especially annoying in Cuban resorts!
Mosquito Season in Cuba: The Worst Time for Mosquitoes in Cuba
Cuba is home to a year-round mosquito community, but mosquitoes are worse during the rainy season. The wet season in Cuba runs from May to October, and it’s when the island gets most of its annual rainfall. Since mosquitoes love damp, wet weather, you’ll see way more of them during the wet season.
Diseases You Can Get From Mosquitoes in Cuba
Itchy, annoying bumps aren’t the only thing that mosquitoes leave behind. They’re also vectors for some serious blood-borne diseases. While these diseases aren’t unique to Cuba, you should be aware of them and their symptoms in case you do get sick while traveling.
Zika in Cuba
There’s no doubt that Zika is a scary virus, but there’s some good news for travelers to Cuba: although sporadic cases of Zika pop up, there is no evidence of a current Zika outbreak in Cuba. In fact, the last reported case was way back in December 2018.
Dengue Virus in Cuba
But don’t lose it! Later in this article, we discuss all you can do to prevent mosquito bites in Cuba without ruining your vacations.
Chikungunya Virus in Cuba
While there’s never been a Chikungunya outbreak in Cuba, isolated cases do occasionally crop up, so we recommend taking precautions.
Symptoms of Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Since you’re traveling to Cuba, it’s smart to be aware of the symptoms of common mosquito-borne illnesses. That being said, keep in mind that most mosquito bites in Cuba won’t lead to a virus.
Zika virus symptoms: Symptoms of Zika are usually fairly mild and last about a week. Fever, joint pain, red eyes, and rash are all common symptoms. Some people also experience fatigue, appetite loss, headache, and vomiting.
Dengue virus symptoms: Symptoms of Dengue vary a lot. Some people are totally asymptomatic (no symptoms), while others experience flu-like symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, and rash.
Chikungunya virus symptoms: If you get bit by a Chikungunya-carrying mosquito, you’ll start noticing symptoms within a week of getting bit. Symptoms include sudden joint aches followed by fever, fatigue, and headache.
Dengue and Chikungunya are both dangerous viruses! If you suspect you contracted one, we recommend seeking medical treatment immediately. Take advantage of your travel insurance to Cuba and let the country’s doctors help you recover!
How to Avoid Mosquito Bites in Cuba
100% of travelers to Cuba want to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes – just kidding, that’s not an official statistic, but I think we can agree that nobody enjoys getting bit!
Luckily, there are a few strategies you can take advantage of to keep mosquitoes away during your trip.
Bring mosquito repellent
When it comes to protecting yourself from mosquitoes, bug spray should be your weapon of choice. We recommend carrying a can of DEET repellent with you at all times.
Apply a generous amount of mosquito repellent to your skin and clothing before you head outside, and be sure to re-apply it a few times throughout the day. Consult the EPA guide to using insect repellents safely for more tips.
Consider using natural mosquito repellents
If you’re not a fan of chemical-based repellents, you can choose an eco-friendly alternative instead. We recommend using a lemon eucalyptus insect repellent since lemon eucalyptus oil has been shown to be an effective natural insect repellent. Choose a high-concentration variety for long-lasting results.
Bring electric mosquito coils
A mosquito coil is a portable device that attracts mosquitoes and zaps them to death.
When mosquito repellent alone isn’t enough to keep the critters at bay, you may want to add a mosquito coil to your arsenal. If you plan to venture away from the coast and into the muggy countryside, a mosquito coil should definitely be on your list of things to bring to Cuba.
Spray permethrin on clothing and gear
You can supplement your DEET or eucalyptus oil with a permethrin insect repellent. This is a powerful synthetic repellent, so avoid contact with the skin and use it on your clothing or gear.
If you do wild camping, sleep in a mosquito bed
Stay indoors during dusk and dawn
Mosquitoes are most active at sunrise and sunset. If it’s feasible, stay indoors until the sun has fully risen or gone before heading out.
If you go out during peak times, wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
Despite your best efforts, there may be times when you have to venture out during peak mosquito hours. The best way to keep yourself protected is by covering up with long sleeves, pants, and shoes instead of sandals.
Close all doors and windows when going to bed
You might be tempted to leave your windows open at night to soak up the cool, breezy Cuban nights. Unfortunately, doing this means you’ll probably wake up with some unwanted guests in your room: mosquitoes! Close your doors and windows before you go to sleep to keep the bugs outside where they belong.
Treat the symptoms if you get bit
Even if you take every precaution, you’ll probably still end up with a couple of mosquito bites. When that happens, you can soothe the symptoms with Tylenol and Hydrocortisone Cream. Don’t take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)! If you happen to come down with Dengue fever, aspirin can make your symptoms worse.
Sand Fleas in Cuba: How to Avoid Them
Mosquitoes aren’t the only pesky insect to watch out for in Cuba. There are also sand fleas! True to their name, sand fleas thrive on Cuba’s sandy, warm-weather beaches. Avoiding sand fleas and their itchy bites means following a few golden rules when you’re on the beach.
Go to the beach at mid-day
Sand fleas are most active during the cooler times of the day, like early morning and twilight. You have the best odds of avoiding sand fleas by hitting up the beach at midday or after sundown.
Don’t sit directly on the sand
Putting a beach blanket between yourself and the sand is an easy way to keep sand fleas away. Since sand fleas are mixed in with the sand itself, that means sand-proof beach blankets are best at keeping fleas away.
Cover your arms and legs whenever possible
The more barriers you have between your skin and the sand, the better protected you’ll be from sand fleas. Using a sand-proof beach blanket is a great start, but you can go a step further by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants on the beach. A long-sleeved swim shirt or rash guard is perfect for beach-goers.
Stay off the beach after the rain
Rain drives sand fleas out of the sand and onto any climbable surfaces, including people! Avoid the beaches for a few hours after it rains to give the sand a chance to dry out and the fleas to return home. This is especially important if you’re visiting during Cuba’s rainy season.
Don’t scratch the itches
Like mosquito bites, sand flea bites are itchy. If you get bit by a sand flea, you’re going to have a powerful urge to scratch the itch. Don’t do it! Scratching sand flea bites makes the itch worse and longer to heal.
Instead of scratching, lather on some soothing aloe vera gel. It’s the only way to soothe the burn without making it worse.
Staying Bug-Bite Free in Cuba
Do you feel better about avoiding mosquitoes and sand fleas in Cuba? While there’s no way to avoid all mosquitoes in Cuba, the tips we explored in this article should help you avoid most bug bites in Cuba.
Do you have any experience with bugs in Cuba? Let us know in the comments!