Saturday, 14 July 2012

those troublesome little vampires!

No, I'm not talking about a certain Cullen family (Ha, never thought I'd use a twilight reference!). Actually, I'm referring to what one of my students likes to call mosquitoes. 'Little vampires', because they come out at night and suck your blood. How very apt, seeing as I am being bitten alive my the damn things.

 Living in Italy is fantastic, as you will discover from reading, erm, every other article on my blog. It's a sunny, happy place. But unfortunately, as said sun shines and said people bumble around being all happy, poor Amy gets attacked in her sleep and is left with little itchy bites everywhere. (Yes, even on my nose.) I think it's because the little buggers have discovered that there's some foreign cuisine available, in the form of my blood. My sweet, English blood. 'Why dine on Italians when you can try something new and different!?' The mosquito billboards are saying. 'Who needs Italians? There's enough Amy for everyone!'. OK, you get the point. Basically, I'm a little fed up with being a constant source of nourishment.

Italians are prepared for these little beasties. They have numerous items available to prevent mosquitoes from nibbling you. Autan insect repellent for example. Spray it on, choke to death on the fumes, and then see if the potent liquid wards off the mosquitoes. Hmm. It doesn't work too well for me I'm afraid. When I was in Kenya I used a repellent with a high DEET content, and that was pretty good. But while the mozzies don't like it, nor does your skin. It's really strong stuff.

The 'normal' stuff

The 'strong' stuff

So what else is there? Citronella candles of course, but all the Italians I've spoken to don't seem to rave about them too much. They prefer to use a little plug-in filled with insect repellent. Stick it in a plug socket and watch the mosquitoes die in front of your eyes (apparently this does happen, as my 'little vampires' student told me). Brands such as Raid seem to be pretty popular and get good reviews, and the one I've tried (Baygon) is quite good too.

I've yet to try the more, erm, brutal method of getting rid of the blighters. There are machines that emit a light that attracts the mosquitoes and zaps them, or you can even buy what can only be described as 'rackets', that you swat at the mosquitoes and they meet a similar fate. Not too sure about these, but if it sounds like your kind of thing, prices seem to be around €4 for the rackets and I've been told that you can get a zapping machine (it's technical name I'm sure) for about €15.

It's also a fairly well known fact that if you wear lighter colours then the mosquitoes are less attracted to you. Peppermint oil, lavender oil and garlic are also said to be useful in keeping them away. Although using all three at the same time may create a bit of a stink. 

So what does one do if such methods fail to work, or one is out and about in areas where carrying around giant zapping fly swats is not socially acceptable? Well, the little vampires are going to get you, whichever way you look at it. Personally, I don't suffer from extreme allergic reactions, but I do suffer from major itching. I've done a little research online to see what methods are used to alleviate the pain and itching. If I've personally used any of the methods, I've written a comment about how (un)successful they were.

  • Spit. Dab a bit of your own (because surely you don't want to use anyone else's...ick) on the bites to relieve itching. This doesn't work for me, and it's a bit gross...
  •  Alcohol. Again, apply some directly onto the bite. I used antibacterial hand gel (which has a high alcohol content) and that worked fairly well, although didn't last too long. 
  • Lemon/Lime. Yet to try this one.
  • Antihistamines. Work well, especially if you're reacting badly to the bite. 
  • Toothpaste. Recommended to me by my boyfriend's family, but for me it didn't work too well. They are fans of this method however.
  • Ice pack. Put an ice pack on the bite to relive the swelling/itching. This worked quite well for me, but after a fairly short while I was suffering again.
  • Heat. Put some hot (very hot, but not boiling as this is definitely not a smart thing to do) water on the bite for 5 or 6 seconds (I put the bite directly under the running water of use a cloth and hold it against the bite) to relive the itching. This is my preferred method. The heat hurts a bit at first but it definitely relieves the itching for at least a day, if not completely. 
 So, they you have it. Some tips and ideas for coping with these little vampires. If you don't get bitten, pass this on to someone who does, and I'm sure they will thank you for it!

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