Yanling's Blog

Article: How to handle mosquito bites in Vietnam and Thailand

Thailand was my first experience of having moderate allergic reactions to the bites.
Then in Vietnam, the same thing happened over again.
I had to deal with it while I was still staying there for some time.
In this blog article, you will read how I dealt with those naughty mosquito bites.
Maybe it gives you the inspiration to work with the bites too.

Moderate allergic reaction

Let’s start with what happens when a mosquito bites.
The body recognizes the saliva of a mosquito as a foreign substance.
The immune system then triggers a response to kick out the “intruder”.
It produces histamine, which increases the blood flow and white blood cell count in the area.
And this causes swelling and inflammation of the bitten area.
Some people’s immune system does not react.
Therefore there is no inflammation and swelling after a bite.

Back in Europe, I had been bitten many times by mosquitoes before.
My body, however, did not produce too much histamine.
It was just a small swollen area and in my experience not unbearable itchy.
After a day or two, it was gone.
The process was faster by not scratching it.
This is a slight allergic reaction.

In Asia, in my experience, particularly Thailand and Vietnam, mosquito bites caused more trouble.
My daily life was less comfortable.
After being bitten, usually, it is not just one bite but several bites, the areas swell a lot.
They are warm to touch, very itchy, hardened swollen skin like a second flesh on top of the skin.
Painful and they stay for at least a few days up to a week, with a scar left behind after a week.
The scar is due to scratching the area because it was unbearably itchy.
In comparison to Europe, I can label this as a moderate allergic reaction.
A severe reaction would be having headache, nausea, fever and other reactions of sickness.
In that case, a doctor needs to be consulted.
I had a moderate reaction because my body was exposed to new mosquito types.
This is common for travelers going to the other side of the world.

In Vietnam, one of my leg with eleven mosquito bites, the other leg had nine bites

Prevention of bites

Even a few minutes outside without putting protection mosquitoes will come.
I was waiting outside for my food to come by motorbike in the morning.
Wearing pants that reveal my ankles immediately attracted a mosquito trying to bite.
Luckily I saw it in time to not let it bite.

DEET products

Anyway, it is very important to prevent one from bitten in the first place.
Here I use products with DEET on bare skin.
I know they are not so good for the body, but they are effective.

Soffell mosquito repellent

In Thailand and Vietnam, they have nice smelling DEET lotions.
This I really like, I feel like putting some nice creme on my skin.
I like using the Soffell mosquito repellent in a pink bottle. It smells flowery.
And the Lavender mosquito repellent as a milky lotion.

** Update: 17 September 2019
I found on the Internet good reviews of Picaridin repellent. 
It has no DEET in it but is effective if not more effective than DEET products.
I haven’t tried it myself but I’m willing to try it.

Long sleeves

Wearing long sleeves and pants also help.
Of course, this depends largely on the temperature.
Over 30 degrees it’s more comfortable to wear shorts.

** Update: 17 September 2019
My second time to Bangkok with new mosquito bites and allergic reactions along with it.
This time, I experienced that wearing long sleeves and pants will not prevent mosquitoes from biting you.
I was in a hurry to eat something and went with long jogging pants without putting any repellent.
I thought that the covering of the skin by clothes will work…
After sitting down for 10 minutes or so I was enriched by four mosquito bites on my legs.

Coconut water

Another thing I experimented in Thailand was drinking lots of coconut water.
This helps to prevent mosquitoes to bite you.
Maybe it helped but I cannot be sure of it as I used other protection methods at the same time.

Anti-mosquito diffuser sticks

While traveling in Belgium, I heard about the diffuser sticks that help against mosquitoes.
You can place these in a room and that room becomes mosquito-free.
At that time I was staying in a room with those sticks and indeed the room had no mosquitoes.
I did a Google search and found out these diffuser sticks are of the brand Zensect, Zensect Anti-Mosquito Diffuser Sticks.

Dealing with the bites

Steroid creams

To stop the enormous swellings and let the skin heal itself I applied steroid cream twice daily.
I discovered its functionality in Vietnam actually.
You can buy them at pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription.
I first used the hydrocortisone cream of the Vietnamese brand “Enoti”.
It is a 1% hydrocortisone cream, each gram contains 10mg of hydrocortisone.
It was purchased in Saigon, mainly for the eczema flare-ups that got worse with the heat.
Immediately after applying the cream, I felt intuitively it was working.
It was not itchy anymore and the hot burning skin felt soothing and calming.
I noticed the swellings got smaller and the bruises (red colored bitten areas) were less visible.
Unfortunately, due to the many bites, after 2-3 days, I had used more than half of the tube.

I needed a new one, the pharmacy in Hanoi has not that brand.
They had another one for me, the Fucidin H brand corticosteroid/antibiotics with hydrocortisone.
Also, this one is a 1% hydrocortisone cream, with antibiotics (Fusidic acid).
I noticed that this brand was even more effective than the hydrocortisone.
Maybe it is because it has also antibiotics in it that is useful for skin infections.
As I scratched the area around the bite, a skin infection could have occurred.

Over-counter steroid creams bought in a pharmacy in Vietnam without a doctor’s prescription.

Bayer Zam-buk ointment

The steroid creams cannot be used too much as they will cause some side effects.
Some of the side effects can be the thinning and weakening of the skin.”
Between sessions, I used Bayer Zam-buk ointment for insect bites when the skin started to get itchy.

In Thailand, I only used the Bayer ointment on the bitten skin, no steroids.
Although it helped with some relief of the itchiness for some time, it is less fast working.

I tried different brands before and this brand I bought in Bangkok was very effective.
It is a traditional Thai Zam-buk ointment used to treat insect bites, rashes, and herpes.
For mosquito bites, it neutralizes the poison, relieves itchiness and reduces inflammation and swelling.
The locals also use them, for a good reason: they are very strong and in my opinion good.

The Thai Bayer Zam-buk ointment for insect bites

Then it is a matter of waiting for the body to heal itself and the skin to recover.
I’m happy to have found a way that works for me.
Now mosquitoes are less annoying as there is a workaround.
Hopefully, this might be useful information for you too to work with the mosquito bites.



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