My husband could walk around shirtless in a swamp and not get a single bug bite. I, however, could bundle up in layers and hide in the sun, and still get multiple bites, which would then swell into the most attractive, itchy welts. When one of our half our kids took after my husband, and the other me, I began to wonder what made one individual more attractive to biting bugs, such as mosquitoes and gnats, than another.
What makes bugs, like mosquitoes and biting gnats, love or hate you?
Luckily for my curious mind, this subject has actually been rather heavily studied in an effort to single out chemicals that repel mosquitoes and other bugs. 400 chemicals emitted by the human body could possibly attract or repel bugs. Your levels of each depend on your genetic makeup. Researchers have found 85% of your attractiveness to bugs is genetic. This explains how our kids inherited our bug attractiveness. The other 15% probability depends on outside factors including your diet, your clothing, your choice in hygiene products, your level of activity, and body temperature.
Things that attract mosquitoes in particular include:
-Persons with Blood type O
-High levels of lactic acid (a chemical byproduct of metabolism and muscle use)
-High body temperatures
-High Co2 output (breathing hard)
-Flowery perfumes, sprays, deodorants, lotions or shampoos
-Being of a larger statue
-Being adult, but not elderly
-Alcohol consumption, particularly beer
What can you do to reduce bug bites this summer?
Some of the factors above can actually be altered to reduce your attractiveness to bugs.
-Avoid wearing dark colors outside.
-Avoid heavy activity when not wearing bug repellent.
-Do not eat outdoors.
-Avoid using scented hygiene products.
-Don’t drink alcohol before going outside or while outside.
You can also avoid areas high in moisture as many biting bugs breed in water. In your own yard, it’s best to drain any sources of standing water, no matter how small. Mosquitoes may be attracted to body heat, but they dislike warm air temperatures. This makes yet another reason sunny days make better choices for outdoor activities.
What should you do if you’re bitten? Is there a way to reduce allergic reactions?
A paste of baking soda and water, hydrocortisone cream, or calamine lotion applied to the bite 2-3 times a day can ease itching while the bite heals. In severe reactions, where the area swells badly, you may consider taking some Benadryl or another antihistamine. In especially painful bites, an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen may also be helpful.