Perfect weather brings with it pesky guests – from house, fruit and drain flies to sewer gnats and bluebottles. While this lot is more annoying than harmful, mosquitoes are another matter altogether. Most mosquito bites will get better within a few hours or overnight, but there are cases when these become swollen or infected, or lead to a severe allergic reaction, especially among children. Itching the bitten spot often draws blood, which can cause contamination. Here are some ways for you and your kids to remain bite-free this winter.
1) Prevention is better
Mosquitoes can breed anywhere, but they are most drawn to logged water and exposed food. “Cleaning your space is the most important step in preventing a mosquito infestation,” says Dr Deepti Chaturvedi, pediatrics specialist at Burjeel Hospital. “This includes everything from dirty containers and dishes with uncovered food or water, to bird feeders and the floor mats of your car.”
Gardens and parks, or even potted plants on your balcony are some of the worst offenders. “Flower beds are a hothouse for logged water, and mosquitoes are also attracted to dense shrubbery and damp grass. Teach your children to avoid these areas, whether in your apartment or villa, or in the park,” advises Dr Chaturvedi.
“Mosquitoes become most active around dusk and dawn. So use insect repellent on exposed skin if you or your children need to be outside then,” adds Dr Aakriti Malla, general practitioner at Aetna International. “Also, ensure your kids are not playing around plants, rubbish, compost or stagnant water, especially at these times. Cover exposed skin by wearing long sleeves and trousers, and always wear shoes when outdoors. Further, keep doors and windows closed, or put up a screen or thin netting to prevent insects from getting inside the house.”
2) What to do if you get bitten
In case of a bite, wash the affected area with soap and water and apply a cold compress or an ice pack to the swelling for 10 minutes, advises Dr Malla. “Avoid scratching the area, and only consider an anti-itch cream or antihistamine if the bite becomes very itchy,” she says.
For children, who have more delicate skin, Dr Chaturvedi recommends applying soothing calamine lotion. If you feel that an anti-allergic medicine or cream is required – in case of multiple bites or unnatural redness or bumps that won't subside – visit a paediatrician for the right prescription.
“The insect repellents sold for adults may be too concentrated for kids and cause unwanted side effects,” she says. “30 per cent Deet is the maximum concentration you should consider for children. Also, avoid spraying or applying these on their hands and faces, as they may lick their hands or put them near the eye area.”
3) Keep your car care
Dr Vishal Rajmal Mehta, senior specialist and head of the department of pediatrics and neonatology at RAK Hospital, says: "Keep the area where you park your car clean and well lit. By doing so, you reduce the chances of mosquitoes migrating into your car's cabin. Keeping things clean also applies to the vehicle's exterior and interior. Mosquitoes are drawn to certain odours, primarily from us and our personal items, as the chemicals and scents we produce are transferred to our clothing, shoes and other belongings. Anything that gets in contact with our stuff then becomes a potential marker for mosquitoes to home in on. This includes our vehicle carpets and floor mats, where we leave spare footwear.
"Synthetic-leather seat cover doesn't breathe and makes you sweat more, thus, attracting mosquitoes inside your car. A fabric seat cover is an alternative or, better still, don't use any seat covers at all," he adds.
4) Travel safe
“If you are travelling it’s always advisable to learn about destination-specific health risks and recommendations,” says Dr Malla. “Avoidance of mosquito bites should always be considered as the first line of defence against mosquito-borne infections such as malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever. Consult your doctor, ideally 4 to 6 weeks before your trip if you are travelling to mosquito-borne disease endemic areas.”
The UAE winters also see an increase in campers. If you’re heading into the desert or any other camping spot, avoid placing your sleeping bag, tent or food supplies too close to a water body or swampy area. “Importantly, keep your surrounding areas as well as your car clean, and keep the windows of your car closed to stop insects from getting inside,” adds Dr Malla.
For children, who may be exposed to vegetation, stagnant water and bugs even on school or sports trips, Dr Chaturvedi suggests Permethrin, an insect repellent that’s meant to be sprayed on clothing gear and tents (never on skin). "The spray lasts several washes, so your child will be safe even if he or she is not around you, and will be protected without the need for strong topical creams or sprays.”