I count myself rather lucky; while those around me scratch and poke at pulsating, red lumps on their ankles and calves, I escape unscathed from the wrath of mosquitoes and their itch-inducing bite. However, according to scientists, this may not just be down to luck. It has been calculated that an estimated 20% of people are particularly delicious to mosquitoes. Here are a number of reasons why some people are more prone to getting bitten than others. We’ll start with behaviours that make your tasty to mosquitoes:
1. Being a gym bunny
Exercise increases body temperature and produces lactic acid, uric acid and ammonia, and when you sweat, those chemicals mosquitoes can detect those chemicals wafting about around you. Lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia is a signal to nearby mosquitoes that it’s mealtime. So if you do exercise, make sure to do it indoors or away from mosquito-heavy areas (like nature!)
Something else that attracts mosquitoes is movement. So if you want to avoid getting bitten, lounge by the pool rather than hitting the basketball court. So if you’re desperate to avoid those bites, play dead!
3. Perfume and cologne
Apparently, smelling nice means throwing up a smoke signal to all mosquitoes in the vicinity. Floral scents in particular can drive a mozzie crazy. You might want to cross that bottle of Marc Jacobs Daisy off your birthday list.
4. After-work beers
Studies have found that just a single 12oz bottle of beer can make you a mosquito hot-spot, however, it is somewhat of a mystery as to why. Although scientists suspect that this is down to a resulting increase in body temperature or increased levels of ethanol in our sweat, there is no concrete proof to back up these theories. So maybe you can have that beer after all…at least until the scientists have solid proof.
5. Red, red, red everywhere
Apparently, mosquitoes have a favourite colour – three, in fact! People who wear red, black, or dark blue are prone to bites because mosquitoes are drawn to the dark colours of their clothes. The darkness probably comforts the insects as their breeding grounds and homes are usually in dim, badly lit spots. So, you should avoid these colours if you are prone to bites.
Now for the stuff that you can’t change, the genetic reasons that make you a hot target for mosquitoes.
6. Blood type
The most obvious reason for attracting these blood-sucking flies; research shows that mosquitoes much prefer Type O blood to Types A and B. Scientists are still trying to figure out why, though.
7. It runs in the family
Regardless of blood type and other factors, some people are genetically prone to being bitten. Unfortunately, it is not yet clear why and we have no way to modify the mysterious mosquito-attracting gene. Blame it on that great-great-great-great-great grandma!
8. High carbon dioxide emissions
As you’ve probably realised, mosquitoes are talented little critters. Mosquitoes can track down their targets from an impressive distance of up to 50m by smelling the carbon dioxide emitted in their breath, another chemical that mosquitoes just love. As a result, larger people tend to attract more mosquitoes and children are bitten much less than adults.
9. A bun in the oven
It seems that pregnant women are mosquito magnets as well, attracting nearly double the amount of bites as others. This is thought to be the result of a higher body temperature, or increased carbon dioxide exhalation (point no.8). So it seems mosquito bites are another thing women have to endure when breathing for two.
10. Natural bacteria on skin
No matter how much we scrub in the shower, everybody has naturally occurring bacteria on their skin. Ever wondered why mosquitoes like to nibble on ankles? This is one area with a higher concentration of bacteria. Also, those with higher levels of cholesterol and steroids on their skin’s surface attract more bites.
How to stay off the menu?
Some lucky people emit chemicals that are repulsive to mosquitoes. Scientists are trying to discover which particular chemicals these are, in the hopes of incorporating them into repellents in the future. But if you fall into any of the last four points, you obviously can’t do much about it.
So, if you are genetically unlucky, love exercising and prefer wearing red, then don’t worry because there are workarounds. You don’t have to change your entire lifestyle just avoid mosquitoes. You cannot let them win! Instead, invest in some repellents. Natural works best – and smells great too.
For now, use citronella, lemongrass, peppermint and vanillin to ward off mosquitoes.
This article was originally published in August 2014. It has since been updated, as of February 2016.
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