True or False: Mosquitoes find some people more ‘tasty’ than others.
Female mosquitoes need our blood to develop fertile eggs. When they bite us, they deposit a tiny bit of saliva into our skin. This saliva contains proteins that cause an allergic reaction. Individuals have different levels of reaction to these proteins; that’s why some people don’t seem all that bothered by the bites and others – like me – itch like crazy.
Researchers have discovered that mosquitoes actually do find some people tastier than others. They haven’t yet discovered exactly what attracts them, but they do know that it involves genetics, chemicals on our skin, and carbon dioxide. About 1 in 10 of us has just the right combination of those ingredients to whet the little buggers’ appetites!
So how do we keep them away?
There are a few ways you can protect yourself. Wearing long sleeves and pants definitely help, but I know that can be very appealing on a warm, humid summer night. Fortunately there are many useful mosquito repellants on the market such as DEET, picaridin (Cutter Advanced), and metofluthrin (DeckMate). Some people swear by natural oils such as citronella, eucalyptus, cedar, peppermint, lemongrass, and geranium. People used to believe that Avon Skin-So-Soft repels mosquitoes, but turns out it only keeps them at bay for about 10 minutes.
So what can you do once you’re bitten?
Topical steroids such as hydrocortisone cream (generic, Cort-Aid) can help with the inflammation and itching. Calamine lotion or baking soda paste (3 teaspoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon water) applied several times a day may also help. For more extreme itching, an over-the-counter antihistamine pill such as diphenhydramine (generic, Benadryl) or loratadine (generic, Claritin) is often very helpful. Diphenhydramine can make you very drowsy, so it’s useful at bedtime when the itching is keeping you awake. Loratadine is non-drowsy so is better for daytime use.
Angela Walker, Med IV (OSU COM)
John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)