Have you ever noticed that some people — maybe even yourself — tend to be mosquito magnets, while others don’t get bitten nearly as much? It’s not an illusion — mosquitoes definitely have their people preferences. Studies have shown that about 20% of people are considered “high attractor” types, which makes them more appealing. But why? What are these characteristics? As it turns out, there are a number of factors that play into this.
But just like not everyone has the same palate, different mosquitoes have different tastes, too. However, if you’re the favorite item on the mosquito menu, you probably don’t care if what’s biting you is Aedes aegypti, Culex pippins, or some other kind of mosquito — you just want them to stop!
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that makes the biters more bite-y on some folks:
What draws a mosquito in to take a bite and get her blood meal (only the females bite) is body heat. If you’ve got a normal temperature that is slightly higher than the usual 98.6 F, you’re a beacon of warm, fresh blood. This actually puts pregnant women at a higher risk, as their body temperature averages a degree or two more than “normal.” Many studies about this have been done, and unfortunately, is a very big problem in areas where malaria is rampant, such as Africa.
Mosquitoes aren’t exactly the fashion police, but they definitely are attracted to darker colors. In the outside world full of bright greens of foliage, light-colored patios and decks, and overall vibrant colors, darker shades like black and navy blue stand out to them and they’re most likely to target you. So if your wardrobe is a little on the goth-y side, these tiny vampires have a better chance of finding you and taking a bite.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why, but studies have shown that mosquitoes are more attracted to people after they’ve been drinking. Even a single beer can increase mosquito bites. So if you have a brew or two at the barbecue, prepare for more itching.
Yes, just by moving, mosquitoes will be drawn to you. They’re detecting your body heat and it’s easier to identify you as a walking smorgasbord full of delicious blood.
It sounds dumb, but simply by breathing out, mosquitoes can be attracted to you. They use an organ called a maxillary palp to do this, and can detect CO2 from over 150 people away. Consequently, people who breathe out more (generally heavier people) have been shown to attract more mosquitoes than others.
Properties of your skin and sweat
Nearly 85% of one’s susceptibility to mosquitoes has nothing to do with what they’re drinking, wearing, or whether they’re moving or breathing. A lot of it just comes down to genetics. The levels of lactic acid, ammonia, uric acid, and other things that you naturally produce in your sweat, as well as the composition of you the bacteria on your skin, make you a tastier treat to mosquitoes.
Your blood type
Just like some people prefer Coke to Pepsi, mosquitoes prefer Type O over Type B, and Type A comes in last place. Type O people are the most valuable blood donors for people and mosquitoes.
Extreme reactions to mosquito bites are known as “Skeeter syndrome.” This is an extreme allergic reaction to mosquito saliva, and is similar to the reaction that people allergic to bee stings get. The swelling can be so extreme that the affected limb doubles in size, eyes swell shut, and the area can be hot and hard to the touch. Systemic reactions are possible as well, but these are rare. Nausea, hives, swelling of the lips and mouth can occur. It can also come with fever and even anaphylactic shock or asthma. This can be life threatening. Treatment for reactions can be anything from compressions with hot cloths and elevation, cortisone and other topical creams, or oral antihistamines. People who are known to have extreme reactions should carry an epinephrine auto-injector or EpiPen. An Epipen will stop immediate loss of airflow, but these types of reactions should send you straight to a hospital. Skeeter syndrome can affect people of any age, but it is more common in children, toddlers, and seniors. Healthy adults generally have “built up a tolerance” to mosquito bites and thus do not usually have reactions as extreme as this.
What about infections?
Of course, to simply not scratch is easier said than done, but if a mosquito bite is scratched to the point of bleeding, there’s a strong chance it will get infected. A mosquito bite that gets infected is called cellulitis, and it’s caused by bacteria that enters the punctured skin from the hands. Warning signs of cellulitis are swelling of the lymph nodes, a wide-spreading redness around the bite, red streaking that extends beyond the bite, puss or drainage, the area may feel warm to the touch, chills, or fever over 100 F. If you notice these signs in yourself or especially your child, definitely see a doctor. An infected bite generally needs antibiotics.
So yes, Mosquitoes do indeed have their people preferences, although most of these things are nothing you can really control — genetics, blood type, temperature, moving, or just breathing. But you can control mosquitoes in your yard so that they don’t view you and your family as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Contact Mosquito Squad of Central Illinois today to schedule a barrier treatment and you’ll be free from up to 90% of mosquitoes in your yard for three weeks at a time. We look forward to hearing from you, and helping you fight the bite!