It happens every year. You and some buddies get together for a summer cookout at the park or maybe a late night out on the lake. At the end of the night, some friends will leave the party with no inflamed red bumps, others will leave covered in bright red dots that feel like they’ll never stop itching. So, really, why are some people more prone to mosquito bites than others?
The Active Times spoke with Janis Reed, technical services manager for Control Solutions Inc. and entomology correspondent for Mosquito Squad, to ask why this annoying summer pest bothers some folks more than others. And while a lot of people believe your blood type or diet will affect your reaction to a mosquito bite, Reed dismisses those things as “old wives tales.”
As it turns out, the answer is not so easy.
“Basically through a ton of research it’s been shown there are 400 or more chemical compounds on human bodies that play a role in attraction — or not — to mosquitoes. Each species of mosquito that can bite people is attracted or not because of these chemicals,” Reed said. These chemicals are released as you sweat, and there isn’t just one chemical that makes you more attractive to mosquitoes; it’s a combination of your genetic makeup.
And while your blood type or diet won’t affect your attractiveness to mosquitoes, two things have been shown to make people more susceptible to bites. Those who drink alcohol, especially beer, are more likely to get bitten. Mosquitoes are also more attracted to pregnant women.
Not only are some people more susceptible to bites because of their chemical makeup, some people will also get inflamed, particularly irritating bites. Why is that?
“When a mosquito is feeding, their mouth part is like a straw. Inside that straw, there are two pieces that acts like saws, then there’s a central tube that goes into the skin. as the mosquito is removing blood from you, she’s also spitting saliva into you. It has a lot of purposes — it’s an anticoagulant, and it’s an anesthetic so you don’t realize you’re being bitten. When you have that itchy welt, what you’re reacting to is the saliva the female injected into you,” Reed explained. And some people are more allergic to that saliva than others.
So, if you just happen to be one of those people who are particularly attractive to mosquitoes and live in an area where mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile virus are apt to spread, Reed recommends you stay away from natural remedies and stick to a CDC-approved insect repellent. While these bug bites may look innocent, they actually can be one of the biggest summer health hazards.