Dengue fever is common in tropical countries such as Malaysia. This is because the mosquito responsible for spreading dengue lives well in the tropical and humid climate. The Aedes mosquito has been known to be the suspect of the dengue infection. Do you know that only infected female mosquitoes are able to spread the dengue virus? A mosquito is said to be infected when it bites a human that has the dengue virus circulating in the body. The infected mosquito then spread the dengue virus to other humans through mosquito bites.
The Malaysia Ministry of Health reports a total of 19 450 cases in the first two months of 2023 alone with 15 deaths. In Malaysia, dengue tends to peak around May to September during the dry southwest and November to March during the rainy northeast monsoon season. It is predicted that 2023 may be the peak of a major outbreak for dengue fever. Thus, it’s important for people to prevent themselves from dengue infection. One of the easiest and affordable ways to prevent one from dengue virus that is spread by the Aedes mosquito is to use mosquito repellents.
There are many mosquito repellents sold in the market. They come in various sizes and ingredients. It can be very confusing to choose which one that will work and of course, be worth the money you are paying. Some modern mosquito repellents even deems to be natural as they use ingredients sourced from nature as part of the active ingredient. Mosquito repellent in the market is also sold with many features such as added fragrance and does not leave oil residue that may be bothersome to some people.
No matter what mosquito repellent you are using, it is best to use something that is clinically proven to be effective and safe. Products containing DEET have been shown both safe and effective. DEET is the simple name for the chemical N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide as the active ingredient in many insects’ repellents. DEET firstly appeared on shelves around 1957. It is used up until now due to its effectiveness and good safety profile. DEET is also one of the ingredients in mosquito repellents that is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in preventing diseases caused by mosquitoes. Products with concentration of DEET with 10% to 35% should be able to provide adequate protection under most circumstances.
Picaridin is another ingredient that is deemed effective and recommended by the CDC. Picaridin is also known as KBR 3023 and icaridin. Picaridin has been shown to be slightly more effective than DEET. It is nearly odourless and seems to keep mosquitoes away at a greater distance. This means mosquitoes would not even bother wanting to land on a person. Picaridin is less likely to cause skin irritation as compared to DEET. There have been few cases reported, rarely, DEET to be causing skin rash and eye irritation.
Besides the two ingredients recommended by CDC, IR3535 is also considered safe but is less effective than the previous two ingredients. The good thing is, repellent with IR3535 does not have strong smells. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and para-methane-diol (PMD) are extracted from leaves and twigs of lemon scented gum eucalyptus plant. Products containing OLE are proven to be effective and long-lasting as DEET. CDC does not recommend using pure oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil not formulated) as a repellent. This is because such an ingredient is not proven to be safe and its efficacy is still questionable.
Now that you know what to look for in an insect repellent, you do not have to worry if you are buying the wrong products. Apart from knowing what ingredient is safe and effective to steer away those mosquitoes, it is also important to use it properly. Remember to read directions or instructions on how to use it. This can be found on the label or written in prints of the products. Use insect repellent indoor and outdoor, day and night. Avoid applying near the eyes and mouth. If you or someone you know accidentally exposed to the insect repellent to the eyes, flush with lots of clean water or eyewash for at least 15 minutes. If you accidentally swallow the product, drink a lot of plain water. Call for a doctor or poison control for help.
Mosquito repellent is one of the ways to prevent dengue. There are many ways of preventing dengue and one way to really eliminate mosquitoes is to dispose of all unwanted containers from holding water and to make sure flower pots, pets bowls or water storage is clean and changed at least once a week. Always wear long sleeved clothes to minimise skin exposure from exposure to mosquito bites. Use mosquito nets when sleeping at night or taking a nap during the day. Whenever possible, avoid living in heavily-populated residential areas because most dengue cases are prone within this area.
In essence, mosquito repellent is one of preventative measures that is effective to prevent dengue. If you or someone you know experiences dengue symptoms such as fever that lasts 2 to 7 days, headaches, muscle pain, joint pain and skin rash, do get checked by a doctor especially when there are known dengue cases reported in the neighbourhood.