Albright College


Do Mosquitoes Really Have a People Preference?

Have you ever noticed that some get bit by mosquitoes more frequently than others and wonder why?  Well there is definitely truth to the above question whether mosquitoes exhibit a people preference.  According to a professor at the University of Florida, one in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes.  It is the female mosquito that bites (not the males) for the need of human blood to develop fertile eggs.  They are picky about whose blood they suck too.

It is known that 85% of genetics account for our susceptibility to mosquito bites.  It is also found that parts of our body chemistry found in excess on our skin’s surface is very attracting to mosquitoes, such as, concentrations of steroids and cholesterol.  This does not suggest that those with higher levels of cholesterol are more susceptible, it means that, some are more efficient at processing cholesterol and the byproducts from the processing remains on the skins surface.

People who produce certain acids in excess, such as uric acid, are more attractive to the mosquito and trigger their sense of smell.  Mosquitoes are able to smell from a distance of up to 50 meters which is equivalent to 164 feet.

Mosquitoes are very attracted to any form of carbon dioxide.  This is why they prefer biting adults versus children.  Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide.  Pregnant women are more at risk because they give off more than normal amounts of carbon dioxide. 

Movement and heat are also factors.  Mosquitoes can sense your movements and as you breathe harder from exertion they can smell the carbon dioxide being exhaled and they like the smell of lactic acid being excreted from your sweat glands.

These pesky critters have been around for 170 million years and there are over 175 known species in the U.S. alone.  So don’t think they are going anywhere anytime soon.

Since 1957 DEET has been the chemical of choice and has been proven the most effective chemical repellent on the market.  Repellents with 23.8% DEET (most contain between 10% and 30%) protect wearers for about five hours.  DEET has a remarkably safe track record, a few hospitalizations, but mainly due to gross overuse.  The American Academy of Pediatrics states that low concentrations of DEET, 10% or lower, are safe on infants 2 months of age and older.

Picaridin has been used worldwide since 1998 and proven to be just as effective as DEET but more pleasant with it being odorless and has a lighter, cleaner feel.  Picaridin is also safe for infants 2 months of age and older.
The chemical IR3535, better known as, Avon’s Skin-So-Soft has been marketed as mosquito repellant but much less effective than DEET.

Approved by the EPA in 2006 is metofluthrin.  This comes in paper strips that you place in outdoor areas and you can also wear it.  It comes in a small container that has a battery operated fan with a replaceable cartridge that you clip onto your clothes.  Not to be applied to the skin.

If you are not into the chemicals, here are some other alternatives.  Soybean oil-based repellant will protect you from mosquitoes for about an hour and a half.  Some other oils used are citronella, cedar, peppermint, lemongrass, and geranium.  These provide a short-lived protection.  Eucalyptus might have a longer effect for protection against bites.  Lemon eucalyptus is safe for children over 3 years of age.

Another alternative that can be used are mosquito traps.  These traps emit substances such as carbon dioxide, heat, moisture, and other mosquito friendly byproducts.

There is also insect repellant apparel.  It is infused with the chemical insecticide permethrin.

One of the first steps in limiting mosquito bites is being proactive by investigating your surroundings and eliminating the attraction.  Standing water is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.  Such as clogged gutters, the crevices of plastic toys, garbage cans, rain barrels without screened covers, and bird baths are some of the biggest breeding grounds.

Mosquito bites can cause some serious health problems, a lot more than just an itchy hive.  Some people can have a serious allergic reaction.  There are also illnesses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, such as the West Nile virus.  This made its first appearance in the U.S. in 1999.  In 1999 New York confirmed 62 cases and seven deaths.  By 2008 the CDC reported 1,356 cases of West Nile 44 deaths throughout the U.S.  We don’t hear much of Malaria, but it’s also a mosquito-transmitted illness.  A million people worldwide die from malaria every year.  Although malaria outbreaks in the U.S. are rare, unfortunately the same cannot be said about West Nile.

Be proactive and save yourself and others from what could be a very dangerous bite.

Have a safe and healthy August.

Reference:  http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/are-you-mosquito-magnet

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