Going fragrance-free protects from mosquito bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 11:28am

Hong Kong has repeatedly failed to address public health issues, even where simple, proven and cost-effective methods are available. Take the topic of scents. Seemingly all products, from laundry detergents and soaps to hairsprays and moisturisers, contain added fragrance. Some enjoy this; others endure discomfort after exposure.

Hong Kong is well known for having mosquito-borne illnesses - dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis, to name two. The creatures are more than eager to sample your blood. Interestingly, the insects are attracted to these scents.

One wonders why, in a modern city with identified medical problems, unscented products are not available.

Most top-tier countries, specifically the "top 10 international cities", have these available for disease diminution and for those who are allergic. But tropical locations have not been considered.

To find unscented products in Hong Kong, sufferers have to be diligent. Some order from overseas, paying enormous shipping fees. Many do this to avoid exposure to Deet, which is found in many insect repellent products. This is particularly important for infants, children, pregnant women and those with allergies.

As well as unscented products, one should also use common sense. These winged vampires are most fearsome during the hours of dawn and dusk, so being indoors helps.

Covering bare skin is another approach. Mosquitoes are attracted to lighter colours. Sequins and other eye-catching items also attract them, like a shark to blood.

More bites occur during the wet season and in rural areas. Water, stagnant or with surface scum, is a breeding ground.

Sadly, romantic notions of swimming at dawn or dusk are seldom worth the risk.

Dr Powers is a fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine