In the Months of Menace

Posted by Mei Ying Teh on

As the rainy season brings the threat of mosquito-borne diseases, protect yourself and your home with safe and natural methods.

 

Photo source: https://pixabay.com/photos/mosquito-feeding-silhouette-skeeter-3860900/

 

 

After months of relentless heat and humidity during tropical summers, there is nothing quite as welcoming as the sound of rain. It heralds a new season of cool relief, of umbrellas and light sweaters, of afternoons with hot tea and evening dinners with warming soups.  But as much as we would like to relish the rainy interlude without a worry, it brings with it a perennial threat: mosquitoes.

 

Pest and Pestilence

 

The threat of mosquitoes goes beyond an occasional itchy bite. This family of insects are known to transmit more diseases than any other animal, causing millions of deaths every year around the world. Three species are more cause for caution than others: Anopheles, which are carriers of malaria; Culex, which harbour encephalitis and filariasis; and Aedes, known to carry yellow fever and, most prominently, dengue fever. [1]  

 

The Aedes mosquito is the primary concern for urban areas and causes the yearly onslaught of dengue cases, of which children and elderly are the most afflicted. The disease itself is caused by the dengue virus, which is hosted and transmitted by female mosquitoes as they bite and feed on human blood.

 

Despite ample and steady efforts to contain its spread, 2019 saw its numbers climb to nearly 15,000 cases in Singapore.[2] Part of the difficulty in controlling the disease is in the fact that mosquitoes have adapted well to living in close proximity with people, able to breed in small amounts of stagnant water that is easily present around the house, from flower vases to roof gutters. As such places are abundant when rain is frequent, mosquitoes are largely active and breed over the wet season, around June to October.

 

An ounce of prevention

 

Making sure that the house is inhospitable for the pesky mosquitoes is the number one recommendation in reducing the chances of contracting dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases.

 

Often, the first step is to regularly look for and empty these mosquito magnets of any stagnant pools:

 

  • Pails
  • Flower vases
  • Flower pot plates
  • Roof gutters
  • Old tires
  • Tarpaulins and plastic coverings

 

In checking for these spots, we target the source and eliminate any potential watery breeding ground and cut off their life cycle.

 

A topic, debated by health and environmental experts in terms of mosquito population control, is fogging. While this has been a long accepted practice in countries where dengue is endemic, recent concerns have been raised on its long-term effects on human health, as well as on its impact on beneficial insect populations.[3]

 

Harnessing Essential Oils

 

For the average home, a safer alternative is to regularly diffuse essential oils that have mosquito-repellent properties. Natural repellents are potentially effective in blocking the sense of smell of mosquitoes, thus preventing them from biting and feeding, and are generally non-toxic.[4]

 

Of these, citronella and its culinary cousin, lemongrass (genus Cymbopogon), have been observed in some studies to be as effective as DEET (the standard for insect repellents) in repelling mosquitoes.[5]  NOW Foods Bug Ban Essential Oil Blend combines the efficacy of citronella and lemongrass with the added benefits of rosemary and thyme essential oils in deterring these pests. Additionally, the following essential oils have been recommended for this function: [6] [7]

 

  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon Eucalyptus
  • Clove
  • Peppermint
  • Basil
  • Neem
  • Cinnamon Oil
  • Thyme
  • Tea Tree Oil

 

Unlike synthetic insecticides, the fragrance from essential oils adds a soothing aromatherapy atmosphere in any room—a major consideration for families with members who may be sensitive to bad smells. A good time to turn on the diffuser is during early morning and the first evening hours, as this is when mosquitoes are actively feeding. Try to use diffusers that can create an ultra-fine mist such as the NOW Foods Ultrasonic Ceramic Stone Diffuser to maximise the dispersal of essential oils in the room.

 

Layers of Defence

 

In instances where one is unsure of mosquitoes in your surroundings, such as being outdoors, one can wear another literal layer of protection. Donning long sleeves, closed-neck or turtle neck shirts, and long pants, limits the exposure of bare skin to unwelcomed bites. In addition, the application of insect-repellent liquid on the skin, such as lotions and spray-ons, is also highly recommended.

 

For people who are cautious about synthetic repellents on the skin, natural options for leave-on repellents are available. The citronella-based NOW Foods Bug Ban Natural Insect Repellent is an excellent addition to any anti-dengue arsenal. Safe even for children above three years old, products such as these are handy and easy to apply for youngsters who are at school or outdoors all day long. These formulations are effective with frequent reapplication every few hours.

 

Intrepid DIY-ers may be inclined to create their own essential oil bug buster. In this easy recipe, you can blend in your oils of choice following the recommended dilution:

 

Homemade Insect Repellent

 

  • 10 parts NOW Carrier Oils
  • 1 part essential oils (See our recommended oils above)

 

For 10 ml total of your chosen essential oils, blend it with 100 ml of the carrier oil. Gently stir the mixture and decant into small roll-on bottles. Apply on skin frequently, especially when outdoors.

 

  
Photo source: https://unsplash.com/photos/wtxcaDIdOCM

The fact is, mosquitoes are here to stay, and the threat that they bring will come year after year. A good health is anyone’s best asset in going through day to day. We must simply learn how to cope with these flying menaces all throughout the rainy season.

 

Learning what the best foods for you are is also an important step in maintaining you and your loved ones’ health! Take a look at our article on the importance of eating the right foods.

 

[1] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/group/mosquitoes/

[2] https://www.businessinsider.sg/singapore-has-had-over-5-times-more-dengue-cases-this-year-than-last-year-and-it-could-surge-further-through-the-end-of-year

[3] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/fogging-not-very-effective-says-dengue-expert

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6189689/

[5] https://malariajournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2875-10-S1-S11

[6] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325337#neem

[7] https://www.healthline.com/health/kinds-of-natural-mosquito-repellant#cinnamon-oil

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