by Adrienne Snavely
In the summer, spending more time outdoors means spending more time out with mosquitos, of which 200 species can be found in the US. It seems to be hard to escape their itchy bites, but protecting yourself from the bites also lessens your chances of contracting mosquito-borne illnesses, the most common being malaria.
Only female mosquitos bite, craving the protein and iron in your blood, and can smell you from 50 yards away. They are attracted to the microbes on your skin that create body odor, and some people have certain microbes that are irresistible to mosquitos. Malarial mosquitos love foot odor and will even bite smelly socks if left sitting out. Chemical compounds our bodies produce, such as ammonia and carbon dioxide, are some of their favorites. Adults emit more carbon dioxide than children, thus are bitten more often. Mosquitos are drawn to movement and heat as well.
Many insect repellents on the market contain DEET, which can have side effects such as memory loss, headaches, seizures, skin irritation, hypotension, and joint pain. Some natural botanical extracts are just as effective as DEET. These include cinnamon leaf oil, vanilla oil mixed with olive oil, citronella essential oil, catnip oil, and lemon eucalyptus oil. These soak into the skin rather than evaporating off as other repellents do. Taking extra vitamin B1 and garlic will cause your skin to produce an odor that mosquitos find offensive.
When you do get bit by mosquitos, there are many natural solutions to soothe the skin such as:
- Aloe Vera
- Tea Tree oil
- Lemon and lime
- Tea bags
- Apple cider vinegar
- Baking soda
- Witch hazel
Extreme temperature application by an ice pack or heated metal spoon also can stop the itching.
The best way to avoid mosquito bites is by staying inside from dusk to dawn, away from shrubby areas or standing water. Bat houses are becoming more popular, as one bat can eat over 600 mosquitos an hour. Dragonflies are almost as effective as bats. Planting marigolds around the yard also good, as they produce a fragrance that bugs dislike. Remember the “Three Ds” of protection:
- DRAIN all standing water including pet bowls, garbage bins, and bird baths.
- DRESS in light colored clothes with long sleeves and pants
- DEFEND yourself using repellents that don’t contain DEET
Mercola MD, Joseph. “What Attracts Mosquitoes and How to Repel Them”. Articles. Mercola.com, 23 Aug 2014. Web. 2 Jun 2015.