Research by medical experts indicates that children are especially prone to such diseases. A WHO study, conducted in 2017, reports that an estimated 219 million cases of malaria were detected in which children in the age group of under five years comprised 61% of malaria deaths globally. The mortality rate is indicative of the seriousness of impact of such diseases.
The statistics are alarming and a major cause of worry for India. The World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that climatic change would be responsible for thousands of deaths each year from malaria and dengue between 2030 and 2050 with children, women and the poor being particularly susceptible.
WHO further says that variation in temperature and rainfall patterns due to global warming might aggravate the problem further, resulting in rapid transmission of vector-borne diseases.
Inadequate land space to accommodate India’s burgeoning population is causing rapid emergence of urban slums that lack clean piped water, a proper drainage system and solid waste management.
This, in turn, can snowball into a full-blown health crisis of epidemic proportions, rendering large parts of the population at high risk of developing viral diseases spread by mosquitoes
As a doctor, I would recommend that prevention works better than cure in medical matters.
Vector-borne diseases are transmitted via vectors like mosquitoes between hosts and proliferate during the monsoon season, owing to water puddles and contaminated water.
While an outbreak of malaria or dengue cannot be predicted accurately or prevented entirely, adequate self-protective measures can be exercised within the existing medical infrastructure and service delivery system to minimise the risk of occurrence of diseases.
In medical diagnosis, to ensure better clinical outcomes, the cause-effect approach is adopted. Eliminating the source, causative agent or pathogens causing the disease through preventive measures is often the best method to avoid the occurrence of the disease in the first place.
Additional transmission of the disease can be controlled by the use of medical sprays with strong insecticides that weaken the potency of the disease carrying mosquitoes. Adequate drainage must be ensured in areas prone to water logging.
At a personal level, individuals must protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing covered clothing with minimal exposure.
Popular, effective solutions include mosquito/insect repellents ranging from creams, roll-ons, patches to lotions, all of which are available over the counter (OTC) without requiring a doctor’s prescription.
Creams and patches are strong antidotes to counter the mosquito menace. However, while this may be suitable for adults, children are found to be averse to the stickiness of lotions being directly applied on the skin.
My own experience in the medical field, reveals that parents prefer to apply insect repellents on children’s garments rather than on the skin for fear that the children may wash it off or inadvertently consume the medicinal application.
There are personal repellent innovations like patches and roll-on which can be used while being outdoors. There are many options available in the market that is safe to use such as Goodknight Fabric Roll-On and personal repellent patches.
We have such solutions in natural and safe for use formats even for expectant mothers and babies, who are known to have sensitive skin.
Parents are often apprehensive about using chemical compounds and prefer repellents based on natural ingredients like citronella and eucalyptus oil that offer significant protection from mosquitoes whether indoors or outdoors.
Further, it is necessary for the roll-ons to be waterproof, else its application would be in vain during the rainy season when one steps outdoors.
Proper awareness of vector behaviour also plays an important role in tackling the mosquito menace. Often parents are under the misconception that mosquitoes strike only after dark. Thus, they resort to mosquito repellents while indoors.
However, this is not a full proof solution. Scientific studies reveal that Anopheles mosquitoes, which cause malaria, bite during dusk and dawn, while chikungunya and dengue causing Aedes mosquitoes generally attack during the day. Thus, one needs to be prepared 24×7, irrespective of time and place to address this issue.
As a doctor, I would advise refraining from self-diagnosis and treatment of symptoms through self-medication. In case one suspects having contracted any of the vector-borne diseases, it is prudent to consult a registered medical practitioner for early detection and timely cure.
The author is a Consultant Paediatrician at Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences, Mumbai