Over 2000 dengue cases have been recorded in Singapore since the beginning of this year, with 29 active clusters as of May 2021. The safest way to slow down the spread of dengue is by separating yourself completely from mosquitoes, but not everyone can afford staying inside during the peak mosquito hours of dusk and dawn.
However, there are still actions you can take to reduce your risk. We outline six steps you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your city from the high costs of dengue fever.
1. Apply mosquito repellent regularly
Mosquitoes are naturally attracted to people who emit more CO2, have a stronger body odor, and those with O-type blood, amongst other factors. Nonetheless, a good spray repellent can provide you partial or total relief from mosquitoes for a few hours at a time.
Multiple studies found that DEET, picaridin and lemon-eucalyptus are the most effective bases for a mosquito repellent, with DEET offering the strongest protection upon application and lemon-eucalyptus providing the most relief from mosquitoes after 4 hours.
In terms of cost, DEET-based repellents are approximately 77 per cent more expensive than the natural alternative, while picaridin repellents is the most pricey option. While it is possible to source picaridin repellents below $5, many international repellent brands drive the average cost up to $21.09.
If you want to stay away from harsh chemicals and save money, then a lemon-eucalyptus repellent is your best option. We recommend that you avoid organic repellents that don't include lemon-eucalyptus oil, as they are often more expensive and provide less protection over time.
2. Make yourself less appealing to mosquitoes
There are a few ways to make yourself less appealing to mosquitoes and ultimately curb the spread of dengue. First, you should wear loose, long sleeved clothing. By wearing loose, long sleeved shirts and pants, mosquitoes will have a harder time making contact with your skin. Don't forget to wear high socks and covered shoes, as well, so that dengue mozzies don't have access to your ankles.
Another way to reduce your mosquito-attraction is to stay cool. Mosquitoes are attracted to the smell of human sweat (specifically lactic acid in the sweat), which makes it hard to stay off their radar when the temperature outside is in the high 20s. Small fans can help you cool off, as well as staying hydrated with cold water
Lastly, consider limiting your alcohol consumption during dengue season. Alcohol, especially beer, makes your blood popular with mosquitoes, as it changes your body odor to a more attractive scent. If you are out drinking, make sure to apply repellent before going outside to reduce the risk of attracting a dengue-infected mosquito.
While these tips won't make you 100per cent mosquito-free, they will help to reduce their attraction to you. It's important to practice these good habits in addition to applying mosquito repellent.
3. Mozzie-proof your home and garden
The most effective way to prevent the spread of dengue is making it so mosquitoes can't breed in the first place. By following "BLOCK" steps on a regular basis, you can play your part in the community effort to reduce dengue fever cases in Singapore.
- Break up hardened soil. This will allow water to drain, instead of creating a puddle at the surface that acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Lift and empty flower pot plates. It's important not to let stagnant water sit for too long, otherwise mosquitoes will get their chance to lay eggs.
- Overturn pails and wipe their rims. Similarly, make sure that any planters or pots outside are turned upside down so that they do not collect water.
- Change water in vases. You should regularly change out any sitting water, so that mosquito eggs don't have time to hatch.
- Keep roof gutters clear and place BTI insecticide. If your home has gutters, then you will need to clean them out at least once a week and apply BTI insecticide (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis based insecticide). This is because water easily collects in gutters, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Additionally, using a BTI insecticide in the dark corners of your home will prevent mosquitoes from settling in the area. You can either buy BTI briquets to add to stagnant water areas for approximately $27 or purchase BTI granules at a third of the cost.
4. Keep mosquitoes outside
Even if you must go outside during peak mosquito hours, you should do your best to keep them from coming back inside with you. During dusk and dawn, keeping your doors and windows closed will prevent mosquitoes from flooding inside.
Another option is to install screen doors and windows, so that you can make use of breezes and cool temperatures while putting a barrier between you and dengue-infected mosquitoes.
A single mosquito screen goes for an average price of $7.66 on Shopee and Lazada, though you can find single window screens for as low as $1 each. Similarly, sleeping nets can provide extra protection from mosquitoes while you are asleep.
There are a variety of quality nets, with costs averaging out to $14.17 — however, 50 per cent of the sampled mosquito bed nets were below $9.
5. Use a fan or AC at home
Since mosquitoes aren't able to stick around in windy conditions, keeping a fan on will help protect you from dengue-infected bites. Similarly, cooling down your room with an air conditioner will create an environment that mozzies don't particularly do well in.
In general, staying cool with an AC or fan is a good way to reduce your appeal to mosquitoes. However, you should keep electricity costs in mind, as they significantly increase per your usage. If you plan on using your air conditioner and fan a lot during dengue season, consider switching to a different electricity retailer or buying an energy efficient appliance to save hundreds annually .
6. Get more dengue protection with personal accident insurance
In the unfortunate case that you or your family member contracts dengue fever, a good personal accident insurance plan can help you cover the costs. Some plans offer up to $15,000 coverage for infectious diseases, which can help cover hospital bills and other medical costs.
As long as you practice SAW steps — Spray insecticide, Apply repellent, and Wear long sleeve clothes — and find the right personal accident insurance, you will be less at risk of contracting and paying the high costs of dengue fever.
This article was first published in ValueChampion.