Splashing in the pool, grilling on the patio, biking to the beach and…scratching bug bites. Those pesky, itchy red bumps from mosquitoes are one of the downfalls of a Florida summer.
Why is it that you may have more bites than the person you stood next to at the backyard barbeque? Turns out, mosquitoes can be picky eaters.
According to Mark Brinkman, DO, a family physician with Baptist Primary Care, research is still being done about why mosquitoes may choose one person over another. Multiple factors may attract the bloodsuckers, including:
- Ammonia or other chemicals naturally released through pores on the skin
- Carbon dioxide we exhale (research has found pregnant women exhale 21% more carbon dioxide than other women, which explains why expecting moms are more attractive to mosquitoes)
- Heat and sweat
- Natural bacteria on the skin
- Existing malarial infection
There’s also evidence drinking beer makes a person more attractive to mosquitoes!
The buzz on prevention
Outside of consuming less beer and receiving treatment if you have malaria, you can’t do too much to address the risk factors for being a mosquito’s next meal. However, there are things you can do to prevent bites from occurring in the first place.
- Wear insect repellant with DEET or picaridin. DEET is the most effective and found in most repellants you see in stores. However, Dr. Brinkman cautions it can be a dangerous chemical for canines, so if you have a pup at home (like he does), picaridin-based products are the safer option.
- Remove standing water from around your home. Standing water is a prime spot for mosquitoes to lay eggs. Drain any standing water, including clogged rain gutters, kid’s pools, bird baths and flower pots.
- Avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk. Mosquitoes are most active at these times, so try to avoid the outdoors when the bugs are buzzing.
- Cover skin with long sleeves and pants. The irritating bugs can bite through spandex and other thin material, so opt for loose-fitting clothing with tightly woven fabric.
“Expert recommendations for the treatment of mosquito bites include cool compress, calamine lotion, topical cortisone and a combination of time and prevention,” said Dr. Brinkman. “There’s not a lot of data around how to treat the itch, but these are definitely best practices.”
Dr. Brinkman noted that anaphylactic reactions to mosquito bites are quite rare, but in the event someone experiences swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat, wheezing, or difficulty breathing, call 911 right away.
Looking for the right doctor for you? Call 202.4YOU (904.202.4968) and a Baptist Health care coordinator will get to know you and what you’re looking for in a doctor, and then match you with the one that’s right for you.