It’s true that some people attract more mosquitoes than others, and with insect-borne illnesses like dengue and chikungunya appearing in startling numbers, it might pay to understand why certain individuals seem to be mosquito magnets.
According to the American Mosquito Association (AMA), over 350 compounds have been isolated from odors produced by human skin. Either singly or in combination, many of these compounds may be attractants – and many may be repellents. At this time, science has yet to completely uncover the intricacies of these compounds, but there are some things we do know about being a mosquito magnet.
SEE ALSO: Chikungunya cases reported In Florida
What attracts mosquitoes to you
- Carbon dioxide: The AMA explains that carbon dioxide makes all humans susceptible to mosquito bites. Carbon dioxide is the most universally recognized mosquito attractant and draws mosquitoes from up to 35 meters away. When female mosquitoes sense carbon dioxide they usually adopt a zigzagging flight path within the area to try and locate the source.
- You have larger body mass: Based on the fact mosquitoes are drawn to carbon dioxide, it makes sense that the more of this gas you produce, the more of a mosquito magnet you tend to be. Larger people–in height or weight–produce more carbon dioxide than smaller people. This is why men tend to be bitten more than women, and adults tend to be bitten more than children. Pregnant women are also highly susceptible to mosquito bites for this reason.
- You have poor foot hygiene: A study published in the research journal PLoS ONE found that low diversity but high quantity of bacteria on the feet act as an attractant to mosquitoes. It isn’t the bacteria themselves that draws in the insects, but rather the smell those bacteria create. Similar results are seen in people who eat pungent Limburger cheese, wear perfume, or consume beer regularly. What doesn’t impact the attraction: Bananas. That’s right, contrary to popular belief, the AMA indicates eating bananas has no impact on being a mosquito magnet.
- You work out: Unfortunately, being a healthy individual also makes you more of a risk for being a mosquito magnet. According to German researchers, exercising produces lactic acid, a compound found to be an attractant for mosquitoes at close range.
- Genetics: Though it can’t be stated for certain, some studies have suggested genetics can come into play when someone seems to be a mosquito magnet. A study published in Infections, Genetics, and Evolution found that people with a particular HLA gene are more likely to be bitten.
- You have the right kind of blood: Another still-debatable factor in why some people get bitten more than others may have to do with blood type. Several studies have indicated people with type “O” blood are more at-risk for bites than others.
What can you do to lower your risk for mosquito bites?
Unfortunately there isn’t too much that can be done to keep mosquitoes from biting short of covering all exposed skin from head to toe. Avoiding perfume, beer and smelly cheeses is one way to go, but you shouldn’t fore go exercise or starting a family just to keep insect bites away.
Aside from using a mosquito repellent, the best bet is to cover up as reasonably as possible without causing heat stroke.