A few words on moskitos, malaria, and dengue in southeast Asia

One of the tourist’s biggest phobia is to catch all kind of diseases unknown in his country.

In southeast Asia, the two main “exotic” diseases that you could get are paludism (malaria), and the dengue fever.
They are transmitted through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that are thristy of your so refreshing delightful blood.

How to repel the mosquitoes ?

These tiny little bugs that piss us off and keep us from having a peaceful evening or sleeping tight will soon remember you that they want to play with you.
Here are a few tips to avoid getting bitten as much as you can :

  • Use some mosquito repellent
  • Cover your arms and legs as it gets dark (although in reality, there is always a good reason not to do so : laziness)
  • Use a mosquito net
  • Don’t remain still for too long
  • Keep moving and do something like a kata
The different kinds of repellents and where to buy them

All the repellents are not worth the same, not the same price, not the same toxicity, not the same effectiveness.

The supposed most effective repellents are those with DEET inside (very chemical though). There are many versions of it : cream, spray, or cream sprayed, and the concentration of the DEET molecule is different for each product. It is usually between 15 and 50% although according to certain analyses, the concentration in DEET wouldn’t have a big impact on the effectiveness, if not none.

You can find them in the local drugstores, or even in the 7-elevens sometimes. The price range is from 150 to 400 bahts in average and depending on the size of thebottle.

There is also “natural” repellents with citronella. You find them as easily as the other ones and for a similar price

You can also have a small bottle of citronella essential oil if you are not into chemical stuff.

What is really happening

All these repellents are nice but in reality, things happen a bit differently

  • The repellents are far from being 100% effective
  • You cannot cover yourself up fully with repellent
  • It is annoying to spray his own face all the time and think of doing it
  • The mosquitoes bite you through your clothes
  • The mosquitoes are smarter than you
  • The mosquitoes are ankle fetishists
  • Not all of the mosquitoes carry HIV
  • Some mutant mosquitoes aren’t afraid of DEET
  • You are losing control on mosquitoes while you are sleeping.
  • Setting up a fucking fishing net above his head and taking it off every two days is really annoying. Not to mention it is not lightweight and the mosquitoes always find a a breach to go through

The truth is, YOU are going to get bitten, and more than once believe me.
The second thing is you don’t have to worry too much about mosquitoes. You have to be careful it is true, and even more when there is a lot of humidity but the pharmaceutical lobbies like to scare you and take your money propose you solutions.

The local people aren’t infected for most of them, and it doesn’t keep them from living.

The malaria

I’m not going to bother you with a long speech about malaria, there is Wikipedia for that, but basically it is the disease that may be carried by some mosquitoes and which is potentially transmitted by the “night mosquitoes”

The dengue fever

The dengue fever shouldn’t be neglected either because it is getting more and more concerning in Asia and mutates over time. It is transmitted by the “day mosquitoes”, the big ones (the tiger mosquitoes).
If you catch the dengue once, it should be alright, but twice is less alright.

Is it necessary to take all kinds of anti malaria medical treatments ?

Like I said before, and in my humble opinion, the pharmaceutical lobbies are making you fear those diseases in order to make you buy treatments and/or all sorts a medicines, by dozens if they could.

So be careful with those medications, they often come with side effects and could glue you to your bed, but at least you would be reassured, don’t you ? so you’d better carefully read the instructions prior to taking any medication.

The most popular for malaria is Malarone. You take it as a preventive treatment if I’m not mistaken.

I didn’t want to take any treatment, I just bought “in case” a box of Lariam that I’ve been prescribed by my doctor as a curative treatment. When I checked out at the counter and heard the total amount I was just wondering what they did extra charge me. I mean, over 30€ (~$40) for a tiny fucking box with just a dozen of pills sized like peppercorn inside! What the fuck ? I thought it was some joke but hey… I had my medicine, I carried it throughout without ever using it but at least I contributed to my country’s growth and to saving some laboratory jobs. Anyway…

What you should take into count to evaluate the risk

Basically, the hotter and wetter, the more mosquitoes. The dry season is supposed to be “safer” than the rainy season.

If you are in a busy place with many people, there is also a higher risk to get bitten by some infected mosquito.

The best thing to do is to contain his own paranoia. I couldn’t provide you a scientific proof for the following but the more you are afraid of something and the more you have chances to make it happen. Just let go in your mind about catching diseases, and enjoy fully your experience focusing on positive things, because you are going to get bitten anyway.

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