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Their bite is worse than their whine

Mosquitoes are a menace that must be avoided at all costs, both by using repellants and preventing water from accumulating

World Mosquito Day is observed on August 20 every year by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to honour doctor Sir Ronald Ross, who discovered in 1897 that female mosquitoes transmit malaria. The tradition of celebrating the day with parties and exhibitions was started in the 1930s.

Interestingly, this gentleman was born in Almora, Uttarakhand, to a British general in the Indian Army. The breakthrough came in Secunderabad, when he dissected the stomach tissue of a mosquito that had been fed the blood of a malaria patient. For this discovery, he got the 1902 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

All of 120 years after Dr Ross’ scientific breakthrough, tropical countries are still grappling with the issue of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue. Though we have cures for them, we have still not managed to prevent the growth of mosquitoes, whose eggs are laid directly in water to hatch. As many as 100-300 eggs are laid at a time, and within 24-48 hours the little pests are ready to fly out of the water and feed on human blood. They thrive in warm weather.

There are a lot of creams available in the market but those of us who want to avoid putting chemicals on our skin, can try to get some natural mosquito repellants to rub on exposed parts of the body. They are:
• Lemon eucalyptus oil
• Lavender
• Cinnamon oil
• Thyme oil
• Greek catnip oil
• Soybean oil
• Citronella
• Tea tree oil

You could also put a few drops of citronella oil in the water when mopping the floor, as it keeps flies and mosquitoes away. Also, mosquitoes do not like air-conditioned rooms, as they prefer warm weather.

However, if you do get dengue or malaria, alongside the treatment the doctor prescribes, you must watch your diet. According to Dr Sanjay Kumar Mishra, Chief Dietician at Paras HMRI Hospital, calorie intake is a big challenge. “It is important to consume foods that provide instant energy such as glucose water, sugarcane juice, fruit juice, coconut water, electoral water, sorbet (sugar, salt and lemon with water).”

He advises keeping a check on protein intake to rebuild tissue. The body’s requirements during recuperation can be met by milk, curd, lassi, buttermilk, fish (stew), chicken soup or stew and egg. Dairy fats are helpful in digestion but no fried foods.

Vitamin A and Vitamin C rich foods such as carrot, beetroot, papaya, fruits especially citrus fruits (e.g. orange, mausambi, pine apple, grapes, berries, lemon), with vitamin B complex are very useful to boost immunity. This is perhaps the only time you should avoid green leafy vegetables and fruits with a thick skin as they are high fibre foods.

And remember, go slow on caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee and cocoa.

As for dengue, it is spread by the same Aedes mosquito, but it is infected with a virus. Symptoms — including fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, and pain in the eyes, joints and muscles — can take up to two weeks to develop after you are bitten but usually end in a week. In severe cases, symptoms may include intense stomach pain, repeated vomiting, bleeding from the nose or gums.

Though dengue is self-limiting, and will go away within a week, it deals a severe blow to your immune system. So all measures to boost your immunity must be taken, especially herbs known to be superfoods. Also, drink plenty of liquid to stay hydrated. And be thankful that mosquitoes don’t breed all the year round.

Dr Reshma is an advocate of wellness, prevention and holistic health. Instagram handle: dr.reshmakhattarbhagat