Summer is synonymous with warm weather, swimming in the lake, camping, kicking back on the patio, ice cream…and those blasted mosquitoes! To support peaceful cohabitation with these tiny creatures while fully enjoying your time in the outdoors, we’ve a few suggestions for all you potential blood donors: some tips for keeping them at bay and a relief plan if you aren’t successful.
How do mosquitoes select their victims?
There has been a lot of research done to determine what exactly attracts mosquitoes when they’re out looking for blood and whether some folks are more likely to get bitten than others. Although it’s a complex subject, there are some certainties to share.
Mosquitoes are primarily attracted to carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas we exhale in the process of breathing. Once mozzies have zeroed in on their blood donor, guided by their CO2 emissions, they then proceed to the next level of selection based on a number of factors.
First of all, mozzies love heat. The more heat you give off, the more they love you. Which is why it is recommended that you wear light-coloured clothing to ward off mosquitoes. Dark colours retain heat more easily so people wearing dark clothing will produce more heat and be more attractive to the mozzies. They also enjoy people who are physically active or just hotter by nature.
Smell is also very important in how mozzies choose their blood donors. Their sense of smell is actually so powerful that they can pick up about 150 different odours that emanate from the body – not all detectable by humans. The components of perspiration, skin bacteria and other smells the body gives off are all factors in how attractive an odour is to mozzies. In fact, certain perfumes and cholesterol (!) even feature among their preferences.
Another thing mozzies really love, over which you have no control, is your blood type. Japanese researchers have shown that mosquitoes have a penchant for blood type O because it’s high-protein.
A study of the correlation between drinks consumed and the frequency of mosquito bites showed that people who drink alcohol, particularly, beer, have a greater chance of being bitten than those who drink water.
How to avoid mosquitoes
Pick your times for heading outdoors.
Since mosquitoes are more plentiful in the spring (especially when it’s a wet one), at dawn, dusk and after it rains, it’s best to remain indoors then. Being on or in the water and out in the wind are good ways to escape from mozzies.
Wear light rather than dark or coloured clothing.
Dark colours absorb the heat (remember, mosquitoes are drawn to heat) and bright colours are easily picked up by mosquitoes’ photosensitive eyes.
Avoid perfumes, soaps, fragrant creams and aftershave.
As mentioned earlier, mosquitoes decide whether a blood donor is tasty or not based on their body odour.
The more agitated you are, the more heat you give off and the more appealing you are to the mozzies.
Apply insect repellent, preferably on your clothes.
Commercially available insect repellents sold in stores often contain DEET, a chemical that scares off mosquitoes. The concentrations of DEET depend on the repellent. The concentration won’t affect the effectiveness of the repellent, but the duration. An insect repellent containing 30% DEET will last six (6) hours while a concentration of 10%, will last about three (3) hours. Insect repellent containing DEET is not recommended for children under a year old.
There are also natural and homemade insect repellents. Once again, it’s a matter of how long it lasts. Citronella, lemon eucalyptus oil and rose geranium are three essential oils that mozzies really don’t care for. They can be mixed with vegetable oil and applied to the body or put in a diffuser to keep mozzies away. Again, essential oil should not be applied directly on children’s skin.
How to find relief from mosquito bites
Despite all these helpful tips, a few mozzies may try to draw out some of your blood, because there’s one thing that attracts them that you’re better off not doing anything about: breathing!
So, if you get bitten and the itch is unbearable, here are a few ways of finding some relief:
- Apply ice to the bite. The cold will contract your blood vessels which in turn helps to reduce the swelling and numb the skin, thereby decreasing your discomfort.
- Apply a cotton pad soaked in vinegar to the bite for 30 minutes. Vinegar is a natural antiseptic with anti-itch properties.
- Apply aloe gel on the bites. Aloe works real magic when it comes to healing skin! It also has a cooling, soothing effect that helps you to resist scratching your itch.
- Apply essential oil of spike lavender or real lavender (lavanda angustifolia) on your bites. This essential oil is also found in many natural mosquito repellent recipes.
Still looking for more tips to keep mozzies away or relieve their bites? Visit our Camping page on Pinterest [French only]: https://www.pinterest.ca/tourismevaldor6562/camping/
I hope you’ve found this helpful. Now, you might feel that you are better equipped to fight off mozzies effectively, instead of just madly waving your hands around in the air with annoyance. My intention is for this information to have the best possible experience in the fresh air and the great outdoors this summer!
Cover picture | Manlake Gabriel