Reasons why mosquitoes bite you

June 11, 2019
Mosquito - Dengue

DENGUE alert is up again as Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said there might be around 240,000 dengue cases this year before the year ends.

There’s no cure yet for Dengue even the controversial Dengvaxia caused remarkable scare among Filipinos.

Mosquitos have lived on earth for around 170 million years, with over 3,000 species identified throughout the world today. With such impressive numbers, it would be logical to assume that mosquitoes simply attack the closest human they can find.

In fact, research showed that mosquitoes are downright picky when choosing who to bite. It turns out there are many reasons why they target certain people over others.

Scientists believe that 85 percent of humans’ overall attractiveness to mosquitoes is based on their genetics. Unfortunately, you can’t change your genes.

But, you can arm yourself with knowledge. Sweaty people easily attract mosquitoes. But here are other surprising reasons why mosquitoes could easily detect you even from several distance.

* Heat. Mosquitos typically bite where blood is closest to the surface, like your forehead, elbows, wrists or neck. They use your body’s heat to hone in on the best locations.

Be careful during and shortly after exercising. Your body is hotter overall at these times and could attract more mosquitoes.

* Sweat. Lactic acid is a key component of sweat, and it’s shown to attract mosquitoes. In addition, sweat that has “aged” for a day or two has been found to be even more appealing to mozzies.

Researchers suggest that day-old sweat has higher amounts of natural bacterial growth from your skin. The smell from the bacteria is likely what attracts mosquitoes in higher numbers.

* Pregnancy. A Sudanese study found that pregnant women are nearly twice as likely to be bitten compared to non-pregnant women. Researchers suggest this may be due to specific pregnancy-related substances that are released in your breath and skin. Pregnant women also naturally produce more carbon dioxide and their body temperature is higher, which could add to their mosquito attraction.

* Skin bacteria. The bacteria on your skin have a lot to do with how you smell. In fact, human sweat is odorless to other humans if no bacteria are present. Certain chemicals released by bacteria are what make body odor. And each person has their own unique bacterial mix, which creates their own personal scent.

It’s been found that mosquitoes are attracted to certain bacterial scents more than others. Which means that if you’re naturally have more of those bacteria on your skin, mosquitoes would likely to pick you out of a crowd.

Certain mosquitos prefer different smells from different parts of your body. Some mosquitoes will bite your feet or hands, whereas others go straight for areas like your groin or armpits.

Genetics play a significant role in what types of bacteria live on your skin. There may be other factors that influence your skin microbiome as well, such as diet, although research hasn’t determined exactly what yet.

The best way to keep your delicious scent hidden from attackers is to use strongly scented bug repellants and to cover up with clothing made with tightly-woven fabrics.

* Carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide. They have specialized receptors that can detect a carbon dioxide source from over 50 meters (164 feet) away. This is not good news for humans because we exhale carbon dioxide whenever we breathe. This means that anyone who produces larger amounts of carbon dioxide is at a greater risk of being bitten. Evidence showed that people who are larger, such as those who are tall or overweight, will naturally produce more carbon dioxide.

You also produce more carbon dioxide when you exercise, so watch out when you’re gardening, jogging or doing any other outdoor activity.

Using a fan nearby can help break up your exhaled carbon dioxide trail and of course, would physically throw a mosquito off.

* Beer consumption. A small study showed that mosquitoes were significantly more attracted to people who had recently drank beer.

Participants had their attractiveness to mosquitoes measured before they drank either one liter of beer or one liter of water. Their attractiveness was measured again 15 minutes after the drinks, which is long enough for alcohol to be present in your blood, breath, urine and sweat.

Researchers did not know why beer made you more of a target. They suggested it may have to do with chemical changes in your blood or body odor.

The beer the participants drank was only about three percent alcohol. Research needs to be done to determine if stronger alcohol will make you even more attractive.

Zoe Blarowski