The relentless mosquito situation

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The one thing that has consumed my mind for the past week (and had my sanity hanging by a thread) is the mosquito situation here. I can't go two days without waking up with a swollen facial feature -- this has happened twice to my lips, three times to either my eyelid or undereye areas, my chin, my cheeks, my neck ... even the tip of my nose! I've been told that there are more mosquitoes indoors during the winter here than during the summer!

I've now spent about $30 on all sorts of mosquito products and nothing has helped ... and I don't have the time to inspect my room for 45 minutes before going to bed for potential night predators. It also doesn't help that the room is half white and half dark, dark wood.

Here are the mosquito-repelling methods that I've tried:

1. Electric swatter

This is effective. My father bought one of these, but this one (which my aunt gave me) is like a more technologically advanced version -- it comes with a flashlight which you can use to look for mosquitoes after they've bitten you in the dead of the night. The problem, however, is finding the mosquitoes. This kills mosquitoes 100% of the time after finding them and goes for about $4.50 at the supermarket.

2. Vicks Vaporub

This I brought from the U.S. with me, because I've found it is a multipurpose ointment. Good for mosquito bites, good for tummy aches, good for headaches, good for colds. I discovered online that some people said it was also good for warding off mosquitoes. False.

3. Raid contraption

By Wednesday of this week, I'd decided I'd had enough of leaving the mosquito problem up to chance (or sleeping with a towel covering 90% of my face), so I went and actively looked for a product. I went to 2 stores and spent probably about 20 minutes before the pest control section of Wellcome Mart before deciding on this product. Save for a spray-on insect repellent made for what looked like outdoor use, almost all the pest products were written completely in Chinese, so I had to wing it. I selected this one because it was a Raid product and because it had a picture of a dead mosquito and mint leaves on it. This was about $6.63.

I brought it home and contemplated asking for help installing it, but figured it out on my own using the picture instructions. I plugged it in for about 5 minutes before the minty scent began irritating my respiratory system. I Googled the active ingredient (in English!) and began to think maybe this wasn't healthy. That's when I called my father and asked him to translate for me. Turns out this is mostly a fumigator, but can be used with a person or pets in the room if windows are left open.

The idea of a MOSQUITO fumigator baffles me. Mosquitoes move, and quickly. It's not like they live in some lurid commune with other mosquitoes like ants and roaches might. A fumigator for mosquitoes seems like it'd only be effective for a day or two before they'd begin returning for blood, no? FAIL.

4. Sesame oil

Now at this point, I'd asked my guru mother for help. She told me initially to buy some sort of mosquito incense, but I couldn't find that even after asking for help at the store, so I returned to my mother for help again. This time, she suggested sesame oil.

So off I went to Wellcome Mart again for sesame oil. I didn't buy the cheapest bottle, nor did I buy the most expensive one ... this bottle was about $2.90. Before bed on Thursday night, I poured a little oil into my palm and rubbed my hands together before applying the stuff to my face and neck. It smelled like roasted (and possibly burnt) sesame, which isn't the most pleasant smell, but certainly a small price to pay for keeping mosquitoes away.

I'd killed a mosquito earlier in the night and when I awoke the next morning, not only was I bite-free, but my face was baby soft. I Googled it and my mother's advice was corroborated -- apparently mosquitoes despise the smell of sesame. I thought maybe I had found a cheap and mild solution, but when I tried it again the next night (in combination with the next product), I was attacked 3 times on the face and once on my neck. Fail, sigh. However, I highly recommend this for soft skin (and possibly healthy hair).

5. DEET-free insect repellent

So the second night I tried sesame oil, I woke up at 3:30am because I felt I'd been bitten. My neck had a pretty big swollen area and I definitely felt as though other bites were beginning to swell on my face. I searched my room for the mosquito for about 20 minutes and just couldn't find it. Frustrated, I tried to set up the product I will mention next, and failing that, I decided to use the "this can't not work" repellent. I followed the (English! yay) instructions of spraying some onto the hands and applying it to the face. The ingredients are supposedly all natural: Lemongrass Oil, 1.3 Butylene Glycol and Methylparaben and it also cost nearly $7. It smelled pretty close to citronella to me. I rubbed it on my face twice before throwing the towel back on my face and going back to sleep.

... only to wake up another hour later to my lip swelling and my right undereye area swelling. Fail.

6. Repellent vapor fan

I almost didn't buy this, but I was at Carrefour (a French supermarket that has opened stores in some Asian countries) and it had an extensive mosquito-repelling section and I wasn't sure I'd see the product again if I needed it. It wasn't terribly cheap ($10) and what I really wanted was a plug-in vapor-releaser. Since the entire package, again, was in Chinese, I asked an employee to help me. I asked him two things: 1) can I sleep with this on? (It had a cartoon drawing of a woman sleeping with the fan beside her, but I wanted to double-check.) The employee laughed and said, "It's not poisonous." 2) I asked him "is this battery-run?" And he begrudgingly said, "It should say on the box." I said, "I can't read Chinese," so he took the box from me, looked at it briefly and returned it to me saying, "it has a plug."

Done and done. So home it came with me. And as you already know, I decided to use the sesame oil first, but when I was woken up with bites anyway, I thought, "I'm bringing out the big guns." I unwrapped the package and found that the instructions were in Japanese (!?!@! ... this was 3:30am so I was NOT happy). At last I figured out what the hell I was supposed to be doing ... and then I also realized that it's effing BATTERY OPERATED.

Oh, was I mad at the Carrefour employee ...

By now I've bought batteries for the device and used it once. I can't say there were any mosquitoes cohabiting with me last night, but I did find a mosquito lying face-up not far from the device this morning, dead as a doornail.

Bottom line: the $10 fan and $4.50 electric swapper are the most effective ... if you know where to look.

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  1. Dear Maxine,
    Sesame Oil does work, but only for a few hours before you have to re-apply it. I have experiences on that before. I went to to a temple in a rather remote area where mosquitos are heavily infested. I apply Sesame Oil on all the skin area that are exposed, and the mosquito just don't dare to come close. However, after 2 and a half hours, I feel itch and I see the mosquito bite, I know the oil must have "GONE", so I reapply it and no more bite least for another 2 and a half hours. After then, I realised that it must be the skin absorb oil, especially when you have dry skin. So be advice to put on organic sesame oil, or you might get a chonic posioning.

  2. Hi Majest, thank you so much for the comment and the tips. That would explain why I couldn't ward the mosquitoes off through the night -- I will definitely keep your advice in mind. Thank you!



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