Do it yourself: 12 easy ways to keep mosquitoes out

FamilyHealthcareInfectious Diseases

Keeping mosquitoes out of your home is one of the most important ways of protecting your family from malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. Here are a number of practical steps you can take.

Mind the gap: 43 per cent of people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa are not protected by either insect-treated nets or indoor residual spraying. Photo: Hannah Maule-ffinch/Tearfund
Mind the gap: 43 per cent of people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa are not protected by either insect-treated nets or indoor residual spraying. Photo: Hannah Maule-ffinch/Tearfund

Making mosquito nets

It is much cheaper to buy netting in bulk and sew your own nets. The Preventive Health Programme in Sierra Leone, run by Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods (EFSL), trained local tailors to make nets and sold them at a subsidised price. Tailors could make 15 nets a day and people preferred them to imported nets. Heavy denier (100 or 75) is better, as the nets will be much stronger and less likely to tear.

Square nets are easier to sew, give more protection and are more useful when several people are sharing the net.

Circular nets use less netting and are easier to hang, but they are more likely to allow contact with mosquitoes and are more difficult to make.

Prevention works: there was a 21 per cent global decrease in malaria incidence between 2010 and 2015. Photo: Chris Boyd/Tearfund
Prevention works: there was a 21 per cent global decrease in malaria incidence between 2010 and 2015. Photo: Chris Boyd/Tearfund

How to make a mosquito net

Cut out two pieces of netting. First measure around the bed and cut out this piece: (length + width) x 2, plus 20cm for hem. Allow plenty of drop for the net so it can be tucked in. If people sleep on mats on the floor, nets will need to be longer. Sew up the side seam.

Then measure the area of the bed and cut out to give the top piece. Sew this in, adding tapes for tying the nets and strengthening triangles of extra material in the four corners. Hem if necessary.

See useful images on how to make a mosquito net.

Treat nets and curtains

1 It is important to treat bed nets and curtains to protect from mosquito bites and malaria. Remember that all curtains and nets are many times more effective when treated. Insecticide-treated curtains on windows and doorways will prevent some mosquitoes from entering the house and kill any others on contact.

Doors, windows and roof spaces

2 If possible, make frames for each window and door and fit mosquito wire.

3 If nets and wire are too expensive, consider fitting netting to the windows and doors. Hem a piece of netting, run string through the hem (use a safety pin) and hang the net onto nails.

4 Alternatively, if you want to be able to quickly move the netting away each day, hem the top and bottom and push a thin piece of wood through both. Hang the top, using hooks or bent nails. The weight of the wood will let the net hang, covering the window. It can quickly be hung up on the nails.

5 Make door curtains in the same way, hemming the top to hang them. At night use a piece of wood to keep the net in place. Tie the curtain back during the day to avoid damage.

6 If the house rafters are exposed, mosquitoes can enter easily. Make lightweight wooden frames and cover with local matting for a cheap but effective ceiling. Check for cracks and fill with scraps of netting. Alternatively, hang treated netting to cover the gap between the roof and the walls.

Other ideas

7 Burn dried orange peel, lemongrass or mint leaves in a pot. This is supposed to make mosquitoes sleepy. Peppermint oil, citronella and geranium oils are also fairly effective.

8 Sprinkle neem leaves on the floor. Are there other local leaves which are believed to keep away mosquitoes?

9 Close windows and shutters before sunset to prevent large numbers of mosquitoes entering the house.

10 Clear vegetation around the house to prevent mosquitoes breeding.

11 Drain any containers (old tins, tyres etc) holding stagnant water. Even 1cm of water may be enough for larvae to grow.

12 Fill up any pits or holes in the compound where mosquitoes can breed. If some open areas of water still remain – water butts, wells, etc – then try adding a little cooking oil. This will float on the surface and prevent mosquito larvae from breathing.

For more information on malaria visit the World Malaria Day (25 April, 2017) page on the World Health Organisation website. Take a quiz to test your knowledge on how to prevent malaria.

This article appeared in issue 33 of Footsteps magazine, which is on the topic of insect-borne diseases. You can read Footsteps online, sign up to receive Footsteps regularly or contact us to order printed copies.

Uzo Okoli, Rod Mill and Isabel Carter