As the temperature rises the risk of mosquitoes also increases, and it won't be long before we are constantly harassed by the little buggers. It has been an increasing problem from year to year with global warming, increased resistance and the spread of disease. With most recently the discovery of the Zika virus.
The Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). People can also get Zika through sex with an infected man, and the virus can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, causing a serious birth defect called microcephaly.
Other diseases include Dengue a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics, and Chikungunya which is rarely fatal, but the joint pain can often be severe and debilitating.
With this in mind and with many of us going abroad in the months to come there couldn't be anything more important than understanding why some of us are bugged more than others and be prepared with as many solutions as possible.
Why do mosquitoes bug you more than others?
You know those ones that make no effort to protect themselves and are out in shorts and a t-shirt and yet still don't get bitten, and there you are covered from head to toe in clothes and products and your have been literally eaten alive! Well I am sure you have frequently asked yourself why.
It is a populaire myth that this preference made by mosquitoes is due to the sweetness of our blood, but yes this is very much a myth. Studies however have confirmed that there is a preference and that is due to the odor of your skin. The skin is covered in a lot of bacteria, which differs from person to person, leading to each of us being covered in our own unique concoction of chemicals. These certain combination of bacteria make some humans more attractive than others.
A person's body temperature also plays an important role, which is why people who exercise attract more insects when exercising. The color of your clothes and alcohol and spicy food consumption also attract mosquitoes. With dark clothes attracting the most. Mosquitoes are drawn in by CO2, and when you consume alcohol, spicy foods and exercise your heart rate elevates and CO2 levels increase making you irresistibly tasty. Unfortunately this also means if you are overweight or pregnant you are also more attractive as again your CO2 levels are high.
How can you prevent mosquito bites and avoid infection?
- Wear light colors.
- Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Avoid exercise.
- Avoid spicy foods.
- Wash regularly to reduce skin bacteria.
- Use insect repellent.
- Wear clothing that has a very tight weave such as synthetic fibers.
- See a healthcare provider familiar with travel medicine, ideally 4 to 6 weeks before your trip, to check if their are any specif needed vaccines for the area your travelling to.
- Cover up your body with clothing.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Use lemon balm is a natural bug repellent. Crush the fresh leaves and rub them directly on your skin, especially around the ankles, arms and other areas most exposed and vulnerable to bug bites.
- Use catnip. Studies suggest that catnip may be even more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET (the ingredient used in most commercial bug repellents, which is highly toxic).
- Plant marigolds. The repel mosquitoes as well as other garden pests and are also great in a good salad.
- Grow lavender inside and out. As well as being good at keeping bugs away it has a lovely scent, pretty purple flowers and calming properties.
- Biting bugs don’t like the scent of peppermint, so you can crush up the leaves and rub it on your skin to ward them off. As an added bonus, peppermint also can also do double-duty as itch relief if you do get bitten.
- Put essential oils made from the plants above onto your skin.
All in all be careful this summer and protect when and where you can, because remember mosquito bits aren't just annoying and itchy but can really make you sick.