If you draw mosquitoes to you like flies to sugar, then you may be the owner of factors that can contribute to being a mosquito’s focus during the fading hours of daylight. In one controlled study by the Journal of Medical Entomology, the bugs landed on people with blood type O nearly twice as frequently as those with Type A. This has to do with the secretions the body produces, which alerts mosquitoes to a person’s blood type. This factor certainly doesn’t help to prevent mosquito bites.
Cues like blood type make a mosquito more likely to land on certain people. It tells the critters that they are going to a blood source. Another cue is CO2 – carbon dioxide. The amount of CO2 you produce increases the amount of CO2 you give off … the more you give off, the more attractive you are.
People with high metabolic rates tend to produce more CO2. Lactic acid, which causes our muscles to cramp during exercise is another cue. Lactic acid is released through the skin, signaling to mosquitoes that you are a target.
The Better to See You, My Dear
Mosquitoes have excellent vision, but they fly close to the ground to stay out of the wind. They are able to contrast you with the horizon, so how you’re dressed matters. If you have on dark clothes, you are going to attract more because you’ll stand out from the horizon, whereas those wearing light colors won’t stand out as much, which will help prevent mosquito bites. Once a mosquito lands on you, it takes in tactile cues. Body heat is an important tactile cue. Some people tend to have warmer skin and when a mosquito lands, it is looking for a place where blood is close to the skin. Those whose temperatures run a little higher are more likely to get bitten.
Mosquitoes and Alcohol: Drink Less to Prevent Mosquito Bites
If you are drinking alcohol, you are more attractive to mosquitoes. Just one can of beer increases your risk of being bitten.
Preventing Mosquito Bites
Avoid mosquito peak activity times like sunrise and sunset. Switch your early morning run to an after-work run or better still, a mid-day run.
Cover as much skin as you can when out at peak mosquito activity times.
Use a repellent that has a good protection time – defined as the time from when you apply to when you get the first bite. A spray with 5% DEET gives you about 90 minutes of complete coverage.
DEET is a common ingredient in insect repellents, and sprays with DEET are probably the way to go if you know you’re at risk of bites. Despite the controversy over the health effects of DEET, a 2014 review by the Environmental Protection Agency re-concluded that normal use of DEET products does not pose a risk to one’s health, including children, pregnant women and breastfeeding women.
Citronella candles can be useful but there is no research to support the idea that they keep mosquitoes away. Instead, keeping a fan on outside in the sitting area can be an effective deterrent.
Oh! The Itch!
If you do get bitten, you may be one of those who react badly to the chemicals in the saliva of the mosquito. Don’t scratch! More histamine will be released and the bite gets even itchier. Put an ice cube on the areas or use an over-the-counter anti-itch cream with a mild topical steroid like hydrocortisone. If you are really in distress, an antihistamine like Benadryl, Zyrtec, or Allegra may give you relief.