No doubt, Yangon has its fair share of mosquitoes. Mozzies here tend to be small, quiet and fierce! A recent visitor from Scandinavia, no stranger to mosquitoes because of the abundance of water and forests there, commented that they were like stealth insects because their small size makes them so hard to detect – until after the bite that is! Annoying because of the fierce itching their bites induce, there are many ways you can avoid, if not entirely, being bitten. Any entomologist or malaria expert (and there are plenty in Yangon) will happily tell you how and where they breed, live and bite, but you don’t need to be an authority on mosquitoes to take some very simple precautions;
- Mosquito coils, e.g. Godzilla. These can be bought in any supermarket and when lit emit a smoke which repels the insects; they are for outdoor use only. If you are outside, especially at dusk and dawn, place them under a table or by your front/back doors. They are very toxic however, so keep them well out of the way of children and especially crawling babies who find them fascinating. Make sure to wash your hands if you have handled them.
- Aerosol sprays, e.g. Raid/Jumbo. Again widely available, these promise to kill mosquitoes and other insects. They are very toxic (and smell horrible) so care should be taken not to inhale the spray. Best to spray as you are leaving the house or car and stay away for at least 30 – 60 minutes before entering again. Bathrooms, under tables and beds and behind curtains are favourite hiding places so make sure you spray here too. Spraying towards the ceiling will allow the spray to settle over the room and is very effective.
- Mosquito nets. All beds should have mosquito nets and whilst these can be annoying, they are very effective. Good ‘domes’ can be bought from Sweety Mart and work well for children’s beds and single beds. If you can get ones that have already been treated so much the better as these will not only repel but kill the mozzies too. Any holes must be repaired (easily with needle and thread) and make sure you are not touching the net when sleeping – mozzies can bite through them!
- Repellent, e.g. Odomos/Sketolene. The local brand, Odomos (or Sketolene, from Thailand), comes in cream and liquid form and is safe for use on children. However if you travel outside the country it’s worth stocking up on other brands, of which there are plenty! For kids I would recommend Mosi-guard which comes in liquid spray form (my favourite) as well as stick and cream, plus Extra Strength. Another good one is Icognito which, though mild, comes in many variations including shampoo, shower gel, wipes, after sun and even in a loofah! Great for slathering on kids in or after the shower and all of the above are child friendly and skin kind. That said, there are tonnes of options out there and many people feel that formulas containing Deet are best, but these are not safe for children.
- Fogging. Most residences, hotels and compounds will fog the grounds regularly, the idea being to interrupt the life cycle of the mosquitoes so they don’t have time to breed in vast numbers. You will be advised to close all windows and stay indoors for at least an hour. Most fogging occurs monthly but weekly is probably better to really stem the breeding cycle. Opinions vary as to the efficacy of this method but at least it’s one more weapon in the armoury against mosquitoes!
- Fans. Mozzies hate wind so if you have a fan on in your room, you should have less mosquitoes. Try placing a fan blowing under baby’s cot to deter mozzies from one of their favourite spaces.
- Avoidance. Whilst you can make sure your environment is not so hospitable to mozzies, you can also make sure that you don’t let stale or stagnant water collect on your property. Keep nets well maintained and make sure windows are not left open or keep window nets snugly fitted. Some say not to let your kids play outdoors during dawn or dusk hours but the fact is mosquitoes will bite you 24/7. Still, they seem most fierce at these times so be generous with the repellent if you have to be outside.
Malaria and Dengue Fever are of course a concern, though in Yangon incidences of Malaria are becoming rarer. What you do need to be familiar with is the symptoms, so you can seek help quickly. Both often (but not always) start with a sudden onset of very high fever and can be quickly debilitating. The only way to know if you have either condition is to get tested so go to your nearest clinic. It’s perfectly possible to suffer only mild symptoms too, but with Dengue even the worst symptoms suddenly usually disappear after 7 days. Recovery time can take up to 6 weeks however, depending on how badly you suffered.
Whilst Malaria can be treated with drugs such as Malarone, the only respite for Dengue symptoms is painkillers and fluids and waiting it out. In rare cases platelet counts can fall to dangerous levels, called Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (see post HERE) but this is unusual. Your doctor will be able to advise you further.