Your Best Protection Against Mosquito Bites
Mosquitoes are found worldwide and come in a variety of sizes
and colors. Both males and females feed on plant nectar and
fruit juice, which is burned as fuel for flight. Although
mosquitoes rely on sugar as their main source of energy, the
female needs to feed on blood in order to develop fertile
eggs. Males do not bite. Although sugar must be replenished
daily, blood is sought less frequently. Humans are not the
primary target for blood; birds and animals are the principal
Detecting mosquito bites
A mosquito bite leaves a wheal on the skin - a bump that is
round in shape with pink or red around the edge and white
in the centre. It produces an irritating itch that eventually
disappears. Some relief can be obtained by washing the bite
with soap and water and applying calamine lotion on the affected
area to reduce the itching. Placing an ice pack on the bite
will also help. If you reside in a country or are visiting
an area where mosquitoes are prevalent, extra precaution should
be taken against diseases such as West Nile virus and malaria.
Consult a doctor if a bite does not heal quickly or if you
develop symptoms associated with those illnesses.
Mosquito bite prevention
An effective way to avoid mosquito bites is to apply insect
repellent. Repellents that contain DEET, lemon eucalyptus,
or picaridin work best but are considered by some to be harmful
to the environment. Mosquito repellent should be applied at
regular intervals as certain factors will decrease its effectiveness.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquitoes
from landing on your skin. Since mosquitoes lay their eggs
in water, empty buckets and flower pots, store away toys and
items on your property that can collect water during a rainfall.
Most mosquitoes are active at dawn and dusk, but some seek
hosts during the day.
Factors that decrease the effectiveness of repellent
- Certain sunscreens
- Moisture on the skin following perspiration or swimming
- Levels of absorbency by the skin when repellent is applied
- Evaporation due to wind or heat
Several factors deem to explain why mosquitoes will bite one
person and not another. The best defense remains a good offense.
Here is a list of things to avoid.
- Dark Clothing - Mosquitoes are drawn
to dark-colors since most of them are nocturnal.
- Carbon Dioxide – Human bodies emit
more carbon dioxide when hot. A burning candle or a camp
fire is also a source of carbon dioxide.
- Lactic Acid - The body releases more
lactic acid after exercising or after eating certain foods,
such as salty foods and high-potassium foods.
- Fragrances - Many insects are attracted
to perfumes, hair products, scented sunscreens, and floral
scents that are included in products such as fabric softeners,
soaps and detergents.
- Skin Temperature - Different types of
mosquitoes are attracted to different temperatures.
- Moisture - Perspiration increases the
humidity around the body which explains why bugs often follow
us during outdoor exercise. Moist plants and bodies of water
also lure them.
Natural insect repellents are effective, but require higher
concentrations and more frequent reapplications (at least
every 2 hours) than DEET products. Because there are so many
types of mosquitoes, products that contain multiple repellents
tend to be more effective than those containing a single ingredient.
Natural repellents often contain plant oils, some of which
can actually be harmful to people who are sensitive to natural
oils. It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions
in the use of repellent products in order to properly protect
yourself from mosquito bites.
Some individuals have allergic reactions
to mosquito bites. If a bite causes
a feeling of dizziness or nausea,
consult a doctor and seek treatment.
However, proper mosquito bite prevention
is your greatest line of defense,
and stay alert to the buzz.
Article written by Anna DeGaborik
Anna DeGaborik is the author
for the All Mosquito
Netting Info website. She studies insect diseases and
prevention, specializing in mosquitoes.