Everybody Hates Mosquitoes — Here's What To Do If They Love You
I love summer. You name the summertime activity and I am all in. Days by the pool, trips to the zoo, chasing down the ice cream truck, it is all a dream come true — except for one little thing. The bugs! OMG, do I hate the mosquitoes. But those nagging little suckers love me. I am covered in bites and itching like crazy all summer long. My husband? Nothing. He might get one or two, but the bugs don’t seem to care for him. There might actually be a reason why.
There is some real science behind why some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others, and it’s not just the old wives tales that your grandmother used to tell you. There are several reasons that mosquitoes are more attracted to some folks than others. And the reasons might surprise you.
Why do mosquitoes bite some people more than others?
These bloodsuckers like certain types of blood more than others. One study showed that if you have Type O blood, you are twice as likely to attract mosquitoes than if you are type A. If you are Type B, you’re kind of in the middle. And if your blood sends out a secretion signaling your blood type — roughly 80% of people do — mosquitoes will find you more attractive than those who do not.
What You Wear
You may not realize it, but mosquitoes can see very well. As a matter of fact, they are particularly interested in dark colors. Researchers say that if you are wearing red, black, or green, you are easier for them to spot and therefore a simple target.
Mosquitoes can see you and they can smell you. You are easy to track down due to the carbon dioxide you release when breathing. If you are exhaling a lot, you are more attractive. Mosquitoes also like to get right up in your business and go for the nose and mouth, which is why you may feel like you’re constantly batting them from your face.
Hot And Sweaty Bodies
When you sweat, you emit lactic acid, ammonia, and other compounds that attract mosquitoes. So if you are hanging out on the lawn on a warm summer night and you begin to sweat, you are a nice treat for a mosquito. This is also true for runners and people playing sports. The more sweat coming from your pores, the tastier you are.
Bacteria On The Skin
It has been noted that the more bacteria that you have on your skin, the more interested mosquitoes will be with you. Researchers say the more of the same kind of bacteria, the tastier you are. If you have a lot of bacteria, but they are different kinds, you are not as attractive. And, that bacteria tends to be all over the feet and ankles, hence the reason those spots get particularly itchy.
This is a bummer for folks carrying babies, but mosquitoes like pregnant people more than those who are not. It goes back to the whole carbon dioxide thing. Those in the later weeks of pregnancy exhale more carbon dioxide than those who were not pregnant. And those bellies are hot, which attracts these pesky fliers, too.
If you like a beer in your hand in the summertime, be ready to swat away more mosquitoes. Researchers found that mosquitoes landed more often on people who had imbibed in a 12-oz beer than those who had not. If you want to avoid the bites, put down the brew.
OK, now that we know what attracts them, let’s do our best to keep them away!
First let’s look at conventional pesticides.
DEET is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency as a safe and effective repellent for use in children two months and older. It is marketed under several names and can be bought in discount stores. The Zika Foundation says that Picaridin is also effective for use in babies two months and older. It is a chemical related to the pepper plant and is the most used repellent outside of the USA.
There are also bio pesticides, or natural repellents, that can be used to ward off mosquitoes. According to the CDC, oil of lemon eucalyptus works just as well as products containing DEET. There is also a product used in Europe called IR3535, that is used as a repellent for mosquitoes and deer ticks. You could also use BioUD, which is found naturally in cloves.
Let’s quickly talk about babies. You have to be extremely careful with babies’ delicate skin. The CDC doesn’t want you putting anything on a baby less than two months old. What do you do? Cover all of the outdoor gear with mosquito nets. Do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus on children less than three. But, for children two months and up, DEET is safe in the United States.
Can beauty products repel mosquitoes?
You may have also heard on the street that some beauty products repel mosquitoes. And it’s actually true, to some extent. Avon Skin So Soft Bath Oil is the choice for many who do not want to use harsher chemicals, and it really does work according to anecdotal evidence — although Avon told Consumer Reports, “While we know that many consumers have turned to Skin So Soft Bath Oil, the product is actually not intended to repel mosquitoes or sold for that purpose, and is not approved by the EPA as a repellent.” If you do use it, be aware that any effects it has will only last about two hours, so there is a lot of reapplying if you’re going to be out all day. There is also some good news for Victoria Secret Bombshell perfume wearers: according to an experiment conducted in 2014 by researchers at New Mexico State University, it was nearly as effective as DEET. But like Avon, its effects aren’t long lasting and you will have to reapply often.
How to keep mosquitoes off your clothes and other fabrics …
You can buy permethrin sprays that are made particularly for clothes and fabrics, so you can keep yourself and all of your gear — tents, hammocks, etc. — safe. Certain clothing brands even make items out of pre-treated fabric that can last up to 70 washings. Check out L.L. Bean’s No Fly Zone, Insect Shield, and ExOfficio.
Now what about your house?
Here are a few tips for quelling the mosquitoes at home. If you’re in an area that isn’t well screened, throw up the mosquito nets. Take it to the next level and treat them with insecticides. Grab some fans to help keep the mosquitoes out. It’s also important to keep your grass cut and standing water dumped; both are breeding ground for these little buggers. You could also try hanging up clip-on devices to keep mosquitoes out of certain zones. But don’t give up the skin repellents — the CDC still isn’t sure how safe and effective these devices are. There is also an organic way to keep them away: spread your coffee and tea waste, they limit the reproduction of mosquitoes. Who knew?
And finally, here’s what to do when you travel. Always check the CDC’s website. Learn about where you are going and what you should know about the area. If you are traveling outside of the US, there could be vaccines that you need to get before you go to prevent diseases such as malaria. The National Park Service’s event calendar will let you know all that you need to know about what to expect for your outing and if you need your bug spray. You can also always look at the NPS Disease Prevention and Response Team site if you’re worried about a potential breakout.
Now you know what is attracting mosquitoes — and what you can do to keep them away. You can’t help your blood type or whether or not you sweat, but you can keep the proper products on hand to keep your summer as bite-free as possible.
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