Fear the Itch: Prevent Mosquito Bites by Avoiding These Foods & Activities
There are many, many home remedies out there for relieving itchy mosquito bites. Everything from mud to banana peels and basil leaves to Alka-Seltzer tablets can help curb the itch. But before you even have to resort to any of those methods, you should be thinking about prevention.
Wearing white clothing can help to keep mosquitoes aways from your skin, and there are many plants that will help mask your mosquito-attracting smell. But there's even more ways to keep those bloodsucking bugs away.
Some foods and drinks are actually making you more attractive to mosquitoes, and even some of your activities. I'll walk you through some of the more important ones you should avoid when you're expecting to be in mosquito territory.
Limburger cheese is famous for its stinky scent, and that's exactly what makes mosquitoes love it so much. According to a study conducted by Bart G.J. Knolls and a team of entomology researchers from the Netherlands' Wageningen Agricultural University, Limburger's chemical makeup draws mosquitoes in with its similarities to human skin.
The chemicals and fatty acids present in this particular cheese can also be found in the bacteria that our bodies and skin produce throughout the day. So, when you snack on some Limburger, you amplify your delicious scent and advertise yourself as the perfect snack for hungry mosquitoes.
Think you're in a mosquito-free zone? Don't get too comfortable, because according to Joe Conlon, technical advisor with the American Mosquito Control Association, mosquitoes have a very strong sense of smell. Mosquitoes can smell you from 50 meters away, and even the tiniest taste of this cheese will increase your chances of becoming a bug buffet.
Knolls' research, mentioned above, shows that even when Limburger's scent is diluted and weak, mosquitoes can still sniff it out.
Ever wonder why adults are more frequent targets mosquito targets than kids? It's because adults breath heavier and give off more carbon dioxide, according to Conlon.
The more you exhale, the greater your risk of receiving mosquito bites. As Dr. Anandasankar Ray from the University of California, Riverside found in a recent study, female mosquitoes are attracted to heavy breathers because they have nerve cells designed to detect carbon dioxide.
This means any activities that increase your heart rate are bad news. While it might seem like a good idea to toss a ball around or go for a run, it's best to sit down and relax when mosquitoes are out and about. Vigorous exercise leads you to grow breathless, and as a result your labored breathing and additional carbon dioxide will bring on the bugs.
If you want to monitor your heart rate, you can do so using pretty much any smartphone, from Android to iOS.
In addition to upping your carbon dioxide output, getting active outside also leads to more sweat—and more sweat means more mosquitoes.
Renate Smallegange, a researcher with Wageningen University's Laboratory of Entomology, published a study that found human skin covered in sweat features a host of odors that mosquitoes love.
Our sweat stinks thanks to ammonia, lactic acid, and carboxylic acids. All of these combine with bacteria on our skin to create a mosquito-attracting perfume of sorts. The more bacteria present in your sweat, the tastier you are. It's similar to why mosquitoes love Limburger cheese: our sweaty odor is pungent enough to stand out amidst a lot of scents, and mosquitoes simply can't resist the smell.
Cut back on any activities that will make you sweat more than usual if you're trying to lower your risk of being bitten. If you're just a super sweaty person, you might want to try hiding in the shade.
An ice-cold beer is perfect for hot days, yet boozing it up even a little won't help you keep mosquito bites to a minimum.
In a study from the Department of Biodefence Medicine at Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University in Japan, a team of researchers found that beer's ethanol content significantly increased the number of times mosquitoes landed on people's skin. The bugs were considerably more attracted to those who drank alcohol than sober bystanders.
In both this study and a related study conducted by researchers from around the world and published by Plos One, scientists state that the root of mosquitoes' attraction to beer-drinkers is still unclear. Beer, along with other alcoholic beverages, lowers body temperature, eliminating heavy breathing and excessive sweating as the reason for its bug appeal.
Researchers from the Plos One study hypothesize that our body's ability to quickly metabolize booze and give off its scent is what draws mosquitoes in, but the jury is still out. No matter what it is that mosquitoes love about beer, drink less to limit those itchy bites.
Although you probably don't throw on black clothes when you plan on spending a day out in the sun, it's important to know that what you wear does have an effect on your mosquito appeal.
Dr. Edward Blumenthal, an assistant professor from Marquette University's biological sciences department, says that mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothing because they reflect very little light. However, he also warns the mosquito-phobic that once the sun sets, your clothing doesn't really help: "Keep in mind that most mosquitoes are active after dark, when the color of your clothes won't make much difference."
Mosquitoes will always be around—and annoying. As mentioned before, there are plenty of ways to keep them away. Essentials oils are good repellents, and even blowing soap bubbles will help keep those biters away. If it's nighttime and you're out camping, burn some sage or lemon balm in your campfire.
With these tactics and bite-prevention tricks, you can spend the summer relaxing outdoors without having to slap mosquitoes off your limbs. If you do wind up with a bite or two, control the itch with a DIY solution or a few quick home remedies.