Are you currently experiencing a burning sensation on your skin following your use of the insecticide-treated nets? Maybe it's not you, do you know someone currently complaining of having skin irritation after their skin made contact with the mosquito nets they recently installed?
The use of mosquito nets has become one of the best ways to prevent malaria, especially in the malaria-endemic zones of the African and Indian Subcontinent. The mosquito nets are often made of cotton, nylon or polyester material that prevents mosquitoes from getting in contact with your skin while you sleep, thus preventing their notorious bites that are known to cause malaria.
Malaria is a disease that has gotten significant global recognition, contributing to 409,000 deaths in 2019 (WHO, 2021). The large global burden of this disease and the fact that it is very easily preventable and treatable makes it important to emphasize the prevention of the disease among susceptible individuals.
Four modes of malaria prevention have been recognized recently;
- Use of aerosol sprays
- Use of malaria prophylaxis medications
- Use of the insecticide-treated mosquito nets
- Very recently, the malaria vaccine (RTS,S/AS01 vaccine) is now available.
Of these methods, the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets is the commonest and most widely recommended in the tropical malaria-endemic zones. They are cheap, effective with minimal side effects except that many people have reported that they experience burning skin irritation when their skin touches the net while they sleep. This has grossly affected their use as this discourages many people from using one in their bedroom.
What Makes Mosquito Nets Cause Itching?
Insecticide-treated mosquito nets contain a group of chemicals known as pyrethroids. These chemicals are also present in the aerosolized anti-mosquito insecticides and they have been implicated as the cause of the burning itching you may experience when your bare skin touches the mosquito net. In the aerosol form, they barely touch the skin in large amounts that can cause irritation. Sometimes, even when sprayed directly on the skin, they may not cause any skin reactions at all, and the aerosolized form is relatively harmless to adults and children.
The pungent smell of the aerosols and the fact that mosquitoes have found some ways to evade their action and later come out when the concentration in room air has reduced, has made the mosquito nets the best alternative for preventing malaria in malaria zones.
Nature of the Skin Reactions Associated With Use of Mosquito Nets
Many individuals have reported experiencing skin irritation after using mosquito nets but others have reported otherwise. This second group of people do not experience any itching or burning sensation even following prolonged contact with insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. The reasons why this difference in the reactions from person to person is unknown but it may be related to factors relating to hypersensitivity of the skin of those individuals who feel the irritations.
The skin irritation experienced after using a mosquito can be described as a persistent burning sensation on the thin-skinned body parts like the face, shoulders and back. These are the parts that are also most likely to touch the nets while you sleep. The burning sensation can last for up to 30 minutes to 3 hours in some people and would normally resolve spontaneously. However, this is still long enough time for most people to seek a solution.
Here, you will learn simple hacks on how to stop the burning skin sensation you experience when you use mosquito nets.
How To Stop Skin Irritation (Burning Sensation) From Mosquito Nets
- Wash the area thoroughly
- Identify the true cause
- Prevent contact with high concentrations of pyrethroids
- Adsorb with natural oils after contact
Wash the area thoroughly
When some chemicals come in contact with your skin, the first thing you are expected to do is to quickly wash it off with clean water. In the case of pyrethroids in mosquito nets, you would not know when these chemical touches your body because they are not corrosive and do not produce any immediate effects. A few minutes after contact, they get absorbed into the body and cause a burning sensation.
The fact that they may have been absorbed into the skin makes it almost impossible for washing with water and soap alone to remove the chemicals but it is a necessary first step to wash the area off.
Identify the true cause
What if the cause of the burning skin irritation you are experiencing is something else other than the pyrethroids you are thinking of? It is important that you seek to identify the real cause of the skin reaction is and address it appropriately.
Prevent contact with high concentrations of pyrethroids
- Following the manufacturer's pre-installation instructions: Usually, you are advised to air dry the mosquito net for at least 24 to 48 hours after removing it from the bag before you install it over your bed or room. Sometimes, air-drying even up to 4 days may not reduce or stop skin irritations to mosquito nets but this may help.
- Wear a cloth that covers your body adequately to sleep: The principal strategy to prevent reactions to pyrethroids in mosquito nets is to minimize skin contact with the net.
- Avoid contact with the net while sleeping: You can do this by making sure that there is large enough space inside the mosquito net to allow you to move on the bed without touching the net with your bare skin surfaces. You could also make demarcations with a pillow to prevent you from rolling off to make contact with the mosquito net.
Adsorb with natural oils after contact
This is something you should try when you are experiencing a burning sensation from contact with mosquito nets. I would recommend applying palm oil to the affected area and leaving for some time. Then, the oil is watched off and provides great relief from the skin irritations almost immediately.
Palm oil as well as other natural oils provide a good medium to dissolve the chemicals. The chemicals are non-polar solvents, that is, they do not dissolve in water easily. Hence, washing with water alone may not help you relieve the symptoms. In addition, palm oil is a potent detoxifier, antidote and contains antioxidants that can help reduce or stop the skin reactions following mosquito insecticidal nets use.
Here are the steps to using natural oils to detoxify your skin after contact with pyrethroids in insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
- Wash the area(s) affected to remove residual chemicals on the skin
- Dry with a clean towel or cloth
- Gently apply palm oil or another natural oil over the affected area(s) and leave for about 20-40 minutes
- After that, wipe off the oil with a ball of cotton wool or tissue paper
- Then, wash again but this time with water and detergent
- Finally, wipe dry with a clean cloth and tell me how you feel.
Palm oil and other natural oil are non-polar solvents. They can penetrate into deeper layers of the skin and can diffuse more easily into the skin pores. They are also capable of adsorbing non-polar chemicals like pyrethroids as well, such that when applied to the skin, the oil can adsorb (take up or dissolve) the chemical in a stable solution with itself.
The natural vitamins and antioxidants it contains also make it to be able to neutralize the toxicity of many chemicals, including pyrethroids.