Ah, summer. You’re loving the sunshine, pool time and cookouts. But then you wake up in the morning with a bunch of mosquito bites. What gives?
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Mosquitoes might be sweet on you because you’re unknowingly attracting them. Using scented body products, wearing certain colors, consuming certain foods or drinks or having a higher body temperature makes you appealing to those bloodsuckers.
Also, certain genetics and blood types are more prone to drawing mosquitoes.
Dermatologist Jennifer Lucas, MD, discusses why mosquitoes target certain individuals and how you can prevent mosquito bites.
What are mosquitos attracted to?
Did you know that female mosquitoes are the ones who bite humans? They need our blood to develop fertile eggs. Here’s what appeals to mosquitoes.
Scented body products
When you know that you’re going to be outside, avoid using scented body products to help keep these unwanted bugs at bay. These products can include fragrances, deodorants and scented lotions.
Mosquitoes’ sense of smell tells them when a human target is within striking distance. Scented body products — especially those with strong floral scents — attract the blood-sucking bugs.
“Mosquitoes are attracted to our body odor, but they also are attracted to the things we use to mask body odor,” says Dr. Lucas.
If you really want the mosquitoes to mind their own business, be sure to avoid using a moisturizing lotion before going outside. Many of these products contain lactic acid, which can attract mosquitoes, too.
“Some of the products we use for rejuvenating purposes have alpha hydroxy acids in them, which is an attractant to mosquitoes,” says Dr. Lucas.
Research shows that mosquitoes are drawn to certain colors like red, orange, black and cyan. Any clothing you wear that sports these colors can attract mosquitos.
“This study may explain why mosquitos are attracted to human skin, as the red/pink tones are present in the skin,” says Dr. Lucas.
The study also shows that wearing clothing with green, purple, blue and white may actually deter mosquitoes.
Food and drinks you consume
It’s been said that potassium-rich foods, salty snacks, spicy foods and sweets can attract mosquitoes. But there hasn’t been any research to support those claims.
Genetics and blood type
There are certain elements that make up our body’s chemistry that make us an easy target for mosquitoes.
If you have a high concentration of steroids or cholesterol on your skin’s surface, you may find yourself swatting away mosquitoes. Excess amounts of uric, lactic acid and ammonia acid can trigger a mosquito’s sense of smell as well.
Mosquitoes can also smell carbon dioxide, which is emitted from our breath when we exhale.
Research shows that mosquitoes appear to be more attracted to people with blood type O than other blood types.
Higher body temperature
Mosquitoes can pick up on your body’s thermal sensory information. So, if you’re feeling sweaty or overheated, you may be a prime candidate for those pesky insects.
Preventing mosquito bites
So, how else can you prevent mosquito bites? Dr. Lucas suggests the following:
- Stay covered up. Mosquitoes first look for bare, unprotected skin. Wearing a hat, long-sleeved shirt and pants can help.
- Use insect repellent as directed. Products registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that contain ingredients like DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus can be utilized, but only as the manufacturer recommends. In addition, clothing treated with permethrin, a synthetic insect repellent, are available.
- Stay indoors. When there are lots of mosquitoes around, the best option might be to stay inside. If you’re sleeping outside, consider using a mosquito bed net.
- Keep things dry. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Make sure to empty bird baths, garbage cans, buckets, flowerpots, play equipment and anything else that collects water.
Insect repellents containing DEET and picaridin provide the best protection against biting mosquitoes, but DEET is the ingredient that’s most common in these products.
Products with DEET typically offer different formulas like sprays or lotions. Higher concentrations of DEET can give you longer-lasting protection, too.
Formulas range from containing 5% DEET, which gives you about 90 minutes of protection, to 100% DEET, which gives you about 10 hours of protection.
“While mosquitoes are best known for the pesky itching bites they leave behind, they can also carry diseases,” says Dr. Lucas. “Therefore, it’s important to protect yourself.”