Mosquito bites – why some people always get bitten and a novel way to repel mossies

One thing that stands between us and a perfect summer is pesky mosquitoes buzzing around and leaving unsightly bites that you just can’t stop scratching. I seem to be one of those people who get eaten alive on holiday and have always wondered why. I had assumed that I was just really tasty, but I have now looked into the science behind why some of us are more prone to getting bitten. I also looked at how insect repellent works and a new way to repel those mossies.

Image from http://www.outthere.life/kill-em-all-black-belt-mosquito-defense-part-1/
Image from http://www.outthere.life/kill-em-all-black-belt-mosquito-defense-part-1/

Why do some people get bitten way more than others?

As I said, I always get eaten alive on holiday and it drives me absolutely mad. There are a few potential reasons as to why this is:

Genetics: If you carry genes that make you release more uric acid than others, mosquitoes will be more attracted to you. (Thanks parents for my genes… not)

Type O blood type: A study has found that mosquitoes landed on those with Type O blood nearly twice as much as those with Type A. Some of us also release a chemical out of our skin that indicates to mosquitoes what type of blood we have, which would invite the mossies onto the Type O bodies even more so.

Exercising: If you tend to exercise a lot on holiday your skin temperature will be warmer and you will secrete more lactic acid. Both hot skin and lactic acid have been found to be attract mosquitoes. (So stop jogging, get a cocktail and holiday properly!)

Breathing out more carbon dioxide: Mosquitoes are experts at detecting carbon dioxide and they use this to locate their next victim. So if you breathe out more co2, then you are more likely to have a mossie land on you. As a general rule, larger people breathe out more co2 , which may explain why you probably got bitten less as a tiny kid then you do now as an adult.

Being pregnant: This one doesn’t relate to me (thank god) but pregnant women are twice as likely to get bitten. This is thought to occur because they are warmer and exhale more carbon dioxide.

Drinking beer: Nobody is quite sure why, but drinking beer makes you much more likely to get bitten.

How does insect repellent work?

There are a vast range of products claiming to repel mosquitoes, many of these contain a chemical known as DEET. There are two ideas about how DEET works, and scientists just can’t agree on which is the most likely reason. One idea is that DEET confuses the insects by interfering with their odour receptors in their antennae. This makes it difficult for the bugs to smell and detect us. The other idea is that the insects just do not like the smell of DEET and will therefore avoid us if we are wearing repellent.

The vitamin B trick: 

A friend of mine swears by ‘the vitamin B trick’ to repel mosquitoes. It involves taking a vitamin B1 supplement every day in the week leading up to your holiday and throughout your trip. The idea is that the excess vitamin B leaks into your sweat, producing a odour that the mosquitoes dislike, so they are repelled. This may seem like an easy solution to the mosquito problem, however research on this is a bit hit and miss. I’m not sure I completely buy it, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to try it?

So there we have it, some of us are destined to be bitten, but we have a few options to help reduce the amount of bites we endure.

Fun fact: only female mosquitoes bite!

Till next time,

Lucy

xxx

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