Good grief, all my life I’ve been trying to figure out how to prevent and treat mosquito bites. If you or a loved one is plagued by these little vampires, read on. We’ll plunge into the what’s, why’s and how’s of mosquitos.
What is a Mosquito
Mosquitos are flying insects that are found all around the globe. There are several thousand varieties of these critters, but in a nutshell, the females are the ones that bite humans and animals. They’re also the ones that can spread disease since they insert their needle-like mouth into as many of us as possible. I mean, a girl’s gotta eat, right?
Anyway, female mosquitos need blood in order to gain certain proteins for laying eggs. While these bites are mostly harmless, they can cause itchiness, redness, swelling, and papules that last for up to 7 days. Additionally, a small percentage of people suffer from allergic reactions in response to mosquito saliva.
Generally, mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide and chemicals on the surface of the skin. When we exhale, we release a cloud of CO2 in our general vicinity. People who are overweight or pregnant produce more CO2, thus are more attractive to mosquitos. According to a 2015 study, 67% of attractiveness is due to a person’s genetic makeup. People with specific genes may produce an odor that is particularly attractive to mosquitos. Mosquitos also tend to prefer biting people with type O blood. Type B is their second favorite while type A is least preferred. Adding to this, some people emit an unknown, specific chemical odor that’s tied to their DNA and alerts mosquitos to their desirable blood type. Therefore, type O people who emit this odor tend to be bombarded with mosquitos.
Furthermore, mosquitos are drawn in by sweat, oil, lactic acid , uric acid, and bacteria on the surface of your skin. This is why you should take it easy, stay clean, and refrain from strenuous outdoor activities during peak mosquito season. In addition to our natural odor, mosquitos like certain artificial scents. For example, cyclopentanone, a minty flavor attracts mosquitos just as well as CO2. It’s a good idea to avoid using artificial mint perfumes and chewing gum with artificial mint flavor when mosquitos are around. Note that natural mint oils have the opposite effect and are pretty good at repelling these bugs.
Fun Fact About Beer
Surprisingly, I found this nugget on how to prevent mosquito bites. Next time you’re at a backyard BBQ, consider avoiding beer if you want fewer bites. A 2002 study found that drinking just 12 ounces of beer significantly increases your attractiveness to mosquitos. One theory for this involves alcohol’s effect on body temperature. Alcohol increases your body temperature, making you sweat more. The sweat contains ethanol and other odors that attract mosquitos.
Colors Attract Mosquitos
Mosquitos are attracted to darker colors. This is because darker clothing retains more heat. Avoid wearing shades such as black, brown, and dark red and stick with lighter colors such as white, yellow, or khaki. Had I known this prior to buying red cushions for my garden chairs I’d have been better off.
Depending on your situation, you could wear a blend of essential oils (EO) to repel mosquitos. It’s an easy enough DIY project. You can purchase a rollerball and use a carrier such as coconut or sweet almond oil and add in one or more of these essential oils: basil, cedarwood, citronella, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, natural peppermint and/or rosemary. Neem oil is also a known repellent, but it can cause skin irritation on some people. You can do a test patch on your skin, and if there’s no reaction within 24 hours you can blend some neem oil into your rollerball. The ratio of EO’s to carrier oil can be found in this helpful chart.
For indoor repellents you could use an essential oil diffuser and drop in the various EO’s into the water container. Alternatively, there’s a lot of chatter about electronic, plug-in repellents. Most reviewers say that they work, but there are definitely some naysayers. Lastly, there are always candles. I found these delightful indoor candle blends with citronella which add a nice ambiance to any room.
These little mosquito rascals slip in through my doorway, so I recently purchased a beautiful citronella plant and placed it right outside my door. Fingers crossed it does the trick. If you go this route, the plants do need quite a bit of sunlight, so keep that in mind.
How to Heal Mosquito Bites
If you’re anything like me you have had your fair share of itchy swollen bumps as a result of a fun evening out. Here are some tips to help you heal mosquito bites.
Ice is a quick way to take down swelling and it’s easy to fill a bag with ice and wrap it in a damp towel. Place it on your skin for up to 10 minutes as often as you like. You can read about the extra benefits of ice as well as my favorite gadget in a previous post.
Oatmeal and products with oat extracts are great for stopping the itch and soothing the skin. To make your own oatmeal paste you can grind up any type of oat (instant, steel cut, etc.) and mix it with some water to make a paste. Apply it to the skin and lay a damp towel or piece of plastic wrap over the area to hold in the moisture. Let it sit between 10-20 minutes and rinse well. Here are some oatmeal-based products to get you started: Soap , shower gel , body cream
Hopefully, you learned some tips and tricks on how to prevent and treat mosquito bites so that they’ll stop bugging you!
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Photos by Gift Habeshaw, Theodor Vasile and Melissa Di Rocco on Unsplash