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March against the Mozzies!

Friday, 10.03.2017

This fight requires you to put your best foot forward.

With the constant threat of falling prey to mosquito-borne illnesses, we are now on higher alert than ever before against these pesky bloodsuckers. Certainly, in a perfect world, there would be no mosquitoes!

Currently, there are around 3,500 named species of mosquito, of which scientists have identified several hundred as responsible for biting or bothering humans. In Singapore, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is of particular concern as it is a carrier of several viral diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika fever which can be transmitted to a person who gets bitten.

The upcoming period between June to October is potentially when dengue cases could spike as mosquitoes typically thrive during these warmer months. Since closeting yourself indoors isn’t a realistic solution, it’s best to arm yourself with mozzie-related info as the first line of preventative action before taking the necessary steps to minimise contact with these pests.

3 things to know thy enemy…
1. Femme fatales: Only female mosquitoes ingest blood from victims, and when they bite, their saliva contains proteins that cause the swelling, redness and itching on our skin. The longer the mosquito feeds, the more proteins they release, which can causing a bigger allergic reaction.
2. The magnetic effect: Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, as well as the heat, sweat and different odours our bodies emit. Although mosquitoes mostly use scent receptors in their antennae to locate prey, others use their vision.
3. They are a tough bunch: Mosquitoes have existed for more than 100 million years, have co-evolved with other species and are found on almost every continent and habitat on earth, except Antarctica.

Call the doctor if you see any signs of infection, or if there is severe redness, swelling, pus, or a warm sensation at the bite site. If you suspect a bite from an infected mosquito, monitor if fever arises with joint pain or rash within the next two weeks.
Dengue: After the bite of an infected mosquito, the incubation length is 3-14 days/averaging 4-7 days before symptoms manifest. Most patients will have a sudden onset of high fever (39-40°C) and more severe muscle pain with worsening pain behind the eyes. Skin rash will usually appear about 2-5 days after the onset of symptoms.
Chikungunya: The incubation period is 2-12 days/averaging 2-7 days. Patients also display high fever but have more severe joint pain in their hands, feet, knees and back. Skin rash will usually appear in the first 48 hours of symptoms.
Zika: The incubation period is 3-12 days with most patients having skin rashes that begin from the face and spread to other areas of the body. They will also have red eyes as well as low-grade fever (less than 38.5°C).

Be a proactive parent…
All parents are protective over their children, but when it comes to those dreaded mozzies, some combative strategies are needed. Here’s how you can keep them covered, without resorting to zipping them up in a spacesuit!

#1. Schedule their playtimes. Mosquitoes are most active during the dawn, early hours of the evening, as well as dusk, so it’s best to restrict your kids’ outdoors activity during those periods.

#2. Shower is power! Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid which is released from skin during exercise and when we sweat. Ensure your kids get a shower or bath after an energetic romp, but refrain from using strongly-scented skincare products as well.

#3. Make your home a haven! Eliminate all potential breeding areas of mosquitoes in your home, especially receptacles where stagnant water may collect. Opt to install window screens or fit a mosquito net around your child’s sleeping quarters if you so choose; for less drastic measures, try switching on a fan rather than using air-conditioning or opening the windows. Research has shown that fan-generated wind deters insects as they have trouble navigating when there’s a breeze.

#4. Be kind to skin. Ensure you choose skin-friendly products and do a patch test first preferably on a small area of your child’s skin, which may be more sensitive than an adult’s. Synthetic insect repellants that contain the chemicals DEET and picaridin can be used on infants as young as two months old, or choose natural alternatives that use essential oils such as citronella (lemon balm), eucalyptus or lemongrass. Take note however, that such oils cannot be directly applied onto skin and will need to be diluted before use; more frequent application may also be necessary. While it seems convenient to use products that combine sunscreen and DEET when your child is outdoors, paediatricians advise against this as DEET should not be applied more than once a day on children and research has also shown that skins absorbs the DEET three times faster when the product is mixed with sunscreen. It is recommended to use separate products and to apply the sunscreen first before the insect repellant. Whichever product you use to ward off mozzies, remember to always apply sparingly on any exposed skin, except the face and hands. This is to minimise any inhaling of vapours and if your child puts his fingers into his mouth.

#5. Clothing counts. Scientists have discovered that some mozzies hunt by sight and for some reason, they are least attracted to white and neutral or light pastel colours. For your kids to be on the safer end of the style spectrum, avoid togging them out in black, navy blue, dark green, red and other darker hues. Alas, neon or bright-coloured clothers with flowery prints may be a potential magnet too. However, mosquitoes can have trouble biting through tightly woven fabric, so cotton clothes with a high thread count may help rather than knitwear, for example. For better protection, try to cover up as much exposed skin as possible by resorting to hats, socks, long-sleeved t-shirts or full-length trousers. Be sensible of course—this being humid Singapore, trade-offs are naturally expected as no parent would want to risk overheating their child under layers of clothing!

If you notice your child has just been bitten, apply ice to the area to prevent itching and swelling. Calamine lotion can also help to ease the itch. Keep your child’s fingernails short to discourage scratching and from introducing bacteria and possible infection.

Shoo (shoe) bloodsuckers away!
Adding to an effective wardrobe, here’s a surprising shoo-in (or rather, shoe-on!) in the form of ingenious footwear that’s been proven to deter mosquitoes! With over 40 years of shoemaking experience, the Petalous brand hailing from Spain has an answer to keep your kids—and the rest of the family—effectively protected from mozzies, starting with happy feet. Available in fun breezy styles that feature the casual slip-on, lace-ups, Velcro and Mary Jane, the Petalous Antimosquitos range is designed to be fashion forward and protective at the same time. Not only are they sturdily constructed with durable outer soles and breathable fabric, these everyday shoes are effective against mosquitoes too as your kids cruise out and about.

Petalous Antimosquitos gets to work the moment you put them on: upon contact, the insoles flex to conform to the contours and motions of each foot, while simultaneously releasing a botanical extract with a distinct citrusy scent that’s proven to repel mosquitoes. The natural formula was developed by a team from Quimera BS, which specialises in the design and development of insecticidal products and repellants, backed by researchers from the University of Zaragoza in Spain. Thanks to this breakthrough innovation, the Petalous Antimosquitos range of footwear was born.

So far, research has shown that the human body can produce over 350 different odours in varying amounts unique to each individual. As such, a 100% effective solution has yet to be achieved as scientists the world over are still working to conclusively determine the exact odours that attract mosquitoes. The repellant results of Petalous Antimosquitos shoes are therefore significant, considering that in controlled laboratory tests, the shoes were found to repel the common mosquito and Aedes mosquito with 85% and 50% proven repellency respectively.

The brand’s anti-mosquito aromatherapy for feet goes the distance too, as the shoes have antifungal and antiseptic properties, which means the more your kids wear them, the healthier their feet become! It’s wonderful how you can now put a spring in your family’s step and spring a surprise on those nasty mozzies too!

Citrusy scents deter mozzies as they mask scents from our bodies that these pests can detect. These uplifting, zesty scents are also irritating to mosquitoes as their nerve systems receive interference, making it hard for them to locate their food sources accurately. Citrus sources include citronella oil which is derived from the leaves and stems of various species of lemongrass; fruits such as oranges and lemons can be effective too, when their peels are rubbed on skin.

Check out Petalous range of shoes here!

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