One can’t think of rain without thinking of the hoards of blood-hungry mosquitoes that appear a few days after.
Not every mosquito carries a disease or virus. However, in tropical countries like the Philippines—where many viral and parasitic infections are endemic—mosquitoes can become carriers and be responsible for spreading serious diseases such as malaria, dengue, brain inflammation/encephalitis and chikungunya.
In the case of dengue, the Department of Health has already reported a total of 46,651 cases with the death toll now at 294. Meanwhile, the department also registered a total of 2,594 suspected chikungunya cases between the months of January and June.
Indeed, mosquitoes represent one of the most significant threats to human health worldwide, with half a billion individuals stricken every year with mosquito-borne illnesses, resulting in millions of deaths.
According to the DOH, avoiding mosquito bites remains the best prevention from infection adding that there are several practical measures that one can take to avoid being bitten.
A combination of these measures is usually most effective:
• Stay inside screened room during dawn, dusk and early evening. These are often the peak time in which female mosquitoes are out and seeking food. Malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn while dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti bites primarily during the day, and is most active for approximately two hours after sunrise and several hours before sunset.
• Mosquitoes need standing water to breed so keep your house and yard free of standing water. Do this by unclogging roof gutters, getting rid of old tires, discarded plastic bottles or cans in your yard, emptying outdoor flower pots, pails and basins regularly or storing them upside down so that they can’t collect water.
• Try to participate in the DOH campaign called “Stop, Look and Listen ‘Aksyon Barangay Kontra Dengue (ABKD), Pagtibayin!”’ The campaign focuses on stopping every 4 p.m. to look inside and outside the house to search and destroy possible mosquito-breeding places.
• When you are in an area with lots of mosquitoes, wear long sleeves, socks and long pants. Also, try to wear light- or bright-colored clothing as research shows that mosquitoes are most attracted to dark colors, especially blue.
• If sleeping in an unscreened room, or one without doors, a mosquito net (which should be impregnated with insecticide) is a sensible precaution. Nets that have pyrethroid (a type of insecticide) incorporated into the material or bound to the material with resin have an expected life of three to five years and are superior to nets that require reapplication of insecticide.
• Try to be cool and relaxed because mosquitoes are more attracted to your perspiration. Interestingly, mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite are more attracted to human body odor compared with mosquitoes that do not carry the parasite, according to a study done in London and published in the journal Public Library of Science One.
• Interestingly, if you bathe yourself in perfume—especially those with floral scents—you will also become attractive to mosquitoes.
• While there are plenty of mosquito repellents available in the market, try to use one that contains DEET. This chemical, when used according to the instructions on their labels, is safe for both adults and children. DEET has been proven the most effective chemical repellent on the market—protecting wearers for about five hours—and in its over 40 years of existence, only few hospitalizations have been reported, and these were mainly due to gross overuse.
Permethrin is another highly effective insecticide and repellent which is recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear. Clothing treated with Permethrin also repels and kills ticks and other biting insects and retains this ability after repeated laundering.
Those who prefer nonchemical-based mosquito repellents may want to try the oil of eucalyptus or soybean oil-based products. While they do not last as long as their chemical-based counterparts, they last much longer than those derived from oils of citronella, cedar, peppermint, lemon grass and geranium.