It might seem like a mystery, but there are reasons why mosquitoes like some people than others. If you anticipate being outdoors where mosquitoes may be lurking, here’s how to protect yourself and what changes to make if you’re susceptible to bites.
Mosquitoes have many ways to find you
You will be more susceptible to mosquitoes in these situations and if you meet the following criteria.
- What you wear: Mosquitoes are attracted to dark and bold colors like red, black, navy blue, and floral. In addition to covering up with long sleeves and pants, dress in light, neutral colors. Mosquitoes will bite through tight clothing, so loose fitted clothing is recommended.
- How you smell: Mosquitoes are drawn to floral scented soaps, deodorants, perfumes, and moisturizing lotions. It sounds gross, but they are also drawn to smelly feet or socks and your sweat or skin odor, and they will use these skin-derived chemical signals and smells to find you.
- What you eat: Strongly related to smell is what you eat or drink. Among these are drinking beer and eating Limburger cheese, which can lure mosquitoes your way.
- Your chemical composition: If you have a higher metabolic rate or warmer body temperature, mosquitos will notice.
- When you exercise: Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale as well as the lactic acid produced by exercise.
- If you’re pregnant: Women who are pregnant can produce chemicals that attract bites.
- Your genetics and blood type: Experts say that genetics and blood type may play a role in attracting mosquitoes. Studies have found that if you have Type O blood, mosquitoes will be more interested in you.
How to prevent and treat mosquito bites
While there is no evidence that anything you eat or drink can prevent bites, mosquito repellents are an effective tool. Intermountain dermatologists at McKay-Dee Hospital, Allison Triplitt, MD, and Lana Pho, MD, recommend the following for bite prevention.
- Use repellents containing DEET. Use a lower concentration of 10 to 30 percent in kids or if you’ll only be outdoors an hour or two. Concentrations of 30 percent or higher are OK for adults or if you’ll be outdoors longer, and generally, apply DEET just once a day.
- An effective alternative to DEET is products with lemon eucalyptus oil. These are considered safer and more natural weapons.
- Always follow product label instructions no matter what repellent you use.
- Mosquitoes are most active early in the morning and early evening. Stay inside or cover up during peak activity.
To treat bites:
- Avoid scratching at all costs, as it will cause the bite to become more inflamed and itchy.
- Wash with soap and water and place a cold compress on the area.
- Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl.
- Use anti-itch creams like calamine lotion or cortisol cream.
- Try baking soda mixed with water or putting a drop of lavender essential oil on a bite.
When to see a doctor
If your symptoms are severe or if you have concerns about mosquito bites that seem to be related to having a fever, headache, body aches, signs of infection, or West Nile virus talk to your doctor.
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It is the kind of everyday event that in the wrong place and time becomes unnerving. You are on vacation. Perhaps you are stroll-ing at dusk along Fifth Avenue in New York. Maybe you’ve been taking pictures in the bush in Kenya, or you are stepping off a ferry in Hong Kong. In a quiet moment, you feel the itch behind your knee. You reach down and touch a hot, raised welt—a mosquito bite—and you wonder:
Do mosquitoes in this place carry disease?
Is an outbreak underway?
What are the odds that the particular mosquito that drained my blood left something deadly behind?
The mere fact that we ask these questions demonstrates the power of the mosquito. No animal on earth has touched so directly and profoundly the lives of so many human beings. For all of history and all over the globe she has been a nuisance, a pain, and an angel of death. Mosquitoes have felled great leaden, decimated armies, and decided the fates of nations. All this, and she is roughly the size and weight of a grape seed.