In the South East Asia region, our weather is perpetually wet and warm which makes an ideal location for mosquito breeding . Apart from the irritating itch one experiences when bitten, mosquitoes become a problematic issue for health reasons when they are the cause of spreading disease. Malaria and dengue are two common diseases transmitted through mosquito bites and estimates show 1-2 million people worldwide die per year from mosquito-borne disease.
Why Mosquito Take Blood
Mosquitoes on their regular diet feeds on flower nectar and water. At this point, they do not bother us. However, a female mosquito which is ready to reproduce feeds on an all protein blood diet. They use the protein and iron found in blood to make their eggs. They feed on humans, birds as well as other mammals for blood. Mosquito saliva contains certain enzymes which humans are allergic to. Therefore, we feel itchy and the bump on our skin is the allergic response to them.
How Victim Are Chosen
Mosquitoes use a range of signals to find their victims, this include movement, odour, carbon dioxide and body heat. The best way to avoid getting bitten is to cover up. When covering up is not ideal, below are some best practices to adhere to:
- Wear khaki, earth tone or neutral colours while trekking. Bright colour clothing attracts mosquitoes.
- We are most at risk of getting bitten during dusk or dawn. Double up on protection during these periods.
- Mosquitoes are attracted by our body odour, sweat and/or body heat. They can detect carbon dioxide emitted from our breath and skin 20 meters away.
- Sweet smelling fragrance in soap, shampoo and lotion can attract mosquitoes. They cause mosquitoes to mistake us as a flower nectar.
- While camping, face the tent door towards the wind. The weak-winged mosquitoes will hide on the downwind side of the tent to prevent themselves from being blown away.
Repellent is an effective way to protect areas which you can’t cover up. Two ingredients commonly used to make mosquito repellents are DEET (old school) and Picaridin (relatively new). Both substances are effective in repelling mosquito.
DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is a substance developed by the US army in 1944 and has been in use since. The biggest gripe about using DEET formula repellent is that it has a greasy feel which some may find unpleasant. DEET will also dissolve certain plastics and some synthetic materials, including rayon, spandex, and vinyl which makes DEET feels like a very toxic product. However, research shown that it is harmless for external use. DEET reduces the performance of sunblock so applying your mosquito repellent first follow by sunblock will give you maximum protection.
Picaridin is relatively new, and laboratory studies have shows that picaridin is as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes. Unlike DEET, picaridin is odourless, non-greasy, and does not dissolve plastics or other synthetics. They are usually sold as a spray in liquid form and are coming up as a favourite alternative.
DEET is available in concentrations from 4 percent to 100 percent. Picaridin levels range from 7 to 20 percent. The percentage of DEET or Picaridin in a repellent determines its protection time, with higher concentrations offering longer protection. This means that a lower concentrated DEET or Picaridin performs equally well in repelling mosquito than a highly concentrated one, with the lower concentrating formula requiring more frequent reapplication.
Other alternatives are mosquito coil and stick on mosquito patch. If you did not bring along repellent on your camping trip, try starting a smoky fire. Some say that smoke is a natural insect repellent but my research online shows its debatable. I will not argue the claims and maybe try it someday.