Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Health Tip: Yoong Means Mosquito

Internet image. I don't have that nice a camera.

A tip today for those of you who have somewhat dramatic reactions to the common mosquito bite. I tend to sport rather large welts about two hours after a bite, but it can take up to two days for it to show on some people.  What has happened is that while a  mosquito is getting a drink of your Type O or whatever it is you run through your system she leaves some saliva behind, and said spit contains a protein that causes the reaction in your system.  I said "she" because it's the female whose bite causes the problems.

The Thai name for mosquitoes is yoong, and while they can breed rapidly in standing water any time of year they're more prevalent there from May through September, the general window for the Thai rainy season.  Those are - naturally - also the months where more cases of mosquito-borne Malaria tend to occur.  Mosquitoes are also enthusiastic carriers of dengue fever.  Don't let either of these sicknesses scare you off, but educate yourself and become aware of how to prevent exposure to the best of your ability.

Most tourists aren't out in the rural areas where these diseases are much more common, but it's a good idea to check your home country's online disease control site for advisories, regardless.  A word to the wise and two to the not so wise.  In the USA call your county health department and ask them to look up where you plan to be going, or just go in and let them explain the recommended immunizations or prescribed medications.  Before my first trip to hike Cambodia's ruins I was advised to take Malarone, an anti-malaria drug.

Getting back to mosquitoes, though:  gan yoong (mosquito repellent) is easy to find at any pharmacy, Boots, or Watson's sundries shop, so don't bother to take it with you. The active ingredient for most of these is deet.  My personal favorite is Jaico (to the left above) although the packaging may be slightly different as this picture was from a while back.  It's a milky liquid in a roll-on formula with a 20% deet content.  You don't have to cover yourself with it; just a few stripes of it down your exposed neck, arms or lower legs will work.

I have three friends who swear by the Avon product Skin So Soft bath oil, and while I've had success with it in the US in the past I can't personally vouch for it's effectiveness there... although it probably works just fine.  You can find Avon products in Thailand malls, but you might want to bring a small bottle with you, just in case.

Your best chances of being bitten are in the first few hours after sunrise and in the early evening.  That means if you go for a morning walk in Lumphini Park or a stroll in the evening you'd be well advised to wear some protection, and this time I'm not referring to extremely thin latex.

For those planning to "rough it" in a simple countryside bungalow or local home you'll probably find that there's a phaa moong (mosquito net) in place to use over your bed when you sleep, and if there's one there I suggest you use it. They know their homes better than we do. If you've noticed more mosquito activity around your bungalow than you're comfortable with and there isn't a net, ask for one. If you're staying in a hotel and don't leave windows open on lower floors you probably don't need to give this another thought.

I mentioned in another post about the outdoor seating area of a nice little place in Bangkok called Just One. On my very first evening in Thailand years back (before I knew better than to wear shorts in the evening in Bangkok) I sat with my legs beneath the tablecloth there while having dinner and paid the price for it.

Don't scratch mosquito or other bug bites... it just invites infection. Cover broken skin with a plaster/bandage.

If you find yourself with bites, don't scratch.  Breaking the skin leaves you vulnerable to infection, and if you do scratch yourself open you'd be better off covering it up with a band-aid/plaster.

There are all sorts of home remedies for the itching that comes with a mosquito bite, and if you have one that works for you you might as well stick with it.  If you don't, you might have luck with the anti-itch potion below.  Its active ingredient is Witch Hazel, and it did help me some.  Others say over-the-counter antihistamines have helped, such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, Chlor-Trimeton, or Claratin.   Ice packs can help, too.

The best idea is to try to avoid being bitten in the first place.  In this case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


ChristianPFC said...

The active ingredient in insect repellent is N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, abbreviated as DEET (capital letters), for a non-native speaker deet looks like an English word, but it isn't.

Fortunately, I am not very sensitive to mosquito bites, about 10 minutes later I get some week itching, nothing to worry about, if there were no diseases spread by mosquito bites!


Bodlagz said...

Nice post, enough can't be said about the menace of mosquitoes, the biggest killer of mankind full stop.
Fortunately for most people the biggest problem is dealing with itchy bites, these can be dealt with quite easily with a host of household items.