Malaria is a common illness that can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated correctly. Here are some practical tips to safeguard your child from this dreaded illness
By Indhu Rebecca Varghese
A highly widespread disease, malaria can be a nightmare once contracted. It is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted from one person to another by the female Anopheles mosquito. The parasite multiplies rapidly in the liver and bloodstream. Infected children often exhibit symptoms like fever, chills, body pain, diarrhoea, etc.
Children under the age of 5 age are most vulnerable to malaria. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 3,03,000 children in this age group died of malaria globally in 2015. The risk is especially high in tropical countries.
Infestation of the Anopheles mosquito is at its peak in monsoon because it breeds in clean, stagnant water. Parents prepare to keep the mosquitoes out of their homes on a war footing—swatting away at every mosquito in sight with defunct electric bats, ‘Mortal Kombat’ style. But, there are other, less tiring and more effective ways to fight the mosquitoes. Here are a few tips to protect your children:
‘Prevention is always better than cure.’ The best way to fight the mosquito is to avoid the bite altogether. Ensure that your children wear full length garments that leave very little skin exposed. A lack of feeding ground is guaranteed to deter the flying rogue.
There are plenty of age-appropriate repellents available at medical pharmacies and stores. These repellents are effective from 2 to 5 hours depending on the strength of concentration. Apply it generously on the exposed areas of your child’s skin after ensuring that she is not allergic to it. In case your child has sensitive skin, use essential oils like lemon grass, citronella, neem and eucalyptus in place of chemical repellents.They are safe but may not be effective for as long as 5 hours. If you use sunscreen, ensure that you apply the sunscreen first and then the mosquito repellent.
Note: Do not use essential oils on babies under the age of 2. For children over 2 years, use them with very low dilution.
If possible, confine your toddler to a room that is air conditioned or is cooler as mosquitoes seem to avoid spots that are cooler than usual.
Check your house and surroundings thoroughly for sites where there is water stagnation and deal with them immediately. As mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, it is important to do away with old tyres, broken vessels, empty flower pots, etc. where rain water is likely to collect. Cover man-made ponds or wells with net. You can also add a few drops of kerosene oil to open drains to repel mosquitoes.
Keep the mosquitoes away by burning neem leaves and coconut husk outside your house. You can also chase the mosquitoes out of the house by using fragrance diffusers with citronella or lemon grass essential oil. Avoid using floral or fruity fragrances as they attract both insects and mosquitoes.
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Use mosquito meshes for your windows and doors, and any other openings through which mosquitoes can enter. Nets with velcro are also a good option to keep the mosquitoes out while letting in breeze and light.
It is important that you use bed nets at night and tuck them well under the bed, because the anopheles mosquito is active at night.
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Hire experts to fumigate the surrounding of your house and neighbourhood periodically. Alternatively, you could notify your civic authorities about the need for fumigation.
When you are travelling, it helps to be prepared. Check if your destination has been identified as a malaria-prone area. If so, consult your doctor about the need for anti-malarial shots for your toddler. Carry extra stock of repellents and full-length garments for your child. When outdoors, try to keep your child away from hedges and bushes where mosquitoes tend to ‘hide’.
Parents must also remember to take care of themselves first to be able to protect their precious toddlers. If you have a unique way of keeping mosquitoes away from your house, do share it with us in the comments below.
Eating nutritious food is the best way to build immunity. We've chosen the best immune-boosting foods for your child. Click the link below to know more.
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