Sept. 5, 2012. With North Carolina’s first West Nile death of the year in Wayne County last week, mosquito bite prevention is top of mind. The recent wet weather across the state is only stoking the flames of the growing mosquito population.
Mosquitoes have been around for 170 million years and there are more than 175 known species in the U.S. These pesky summertime pests clearly aren’t going to disappear any time soon.
First, we need to know more about our enemy to learn better ways to combat them. What do mosquitoes consider an ideal piece of skin, why do they bite, and are they picky eaters?
Is it just me, or do the mosquitoes really like me?
According to the experts, it probably is you and they really like you. Mosquitoes do exhibit blood-sucking preferences. Female mosquitoes—males do not bite people—need human blood to develop fertile eggs. And apparently, not just anyone’s will do. Scientists say approximately, one in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes.
“Scientists have also identified certain elements of our body chemistry that, when found in excess on the skin’s surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer,” says Abby Reynolds, a Kerr Drug pharmacist and Manager of Clinical Programs for Kerr Drug.
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, any type of carbon dioxide is attractive, even over a long distance. Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide, which is why mosquitoes typically prefer munching on adults to small children. Active or fidgety people also produce more CO2 and lactic acid. Pregnant women are also at increased risk, as they produce a greater-than-normal amount of exhaled carbon dioxide. Movement and heat also attract mosquitoes.
If… when you’re bit
The itchy marks that result from mosquito bites are no fun, but luckily, severe reactions are extremely uncommon. Reynolds offers these tips on how to identify and treat bites.
- A mosquito bite typically results in a pink bump that itches.
- As tempting as it may be, don’t scratch it! Scratching only agitates the venom and increases your itching. In addition, over-scratching might cause breaks in the skin that can serve as a port of entry for bacterial infections.
- Although less common, some people can be more sensitive to mosquito bites and have more severe reactions, such as welts or hives.
- All bites should be washed with soap and cold water.
- Benadryl and over-the-counter one percent hydrocortisone cream may be indicated for intense itching and the larger reactions.
- If there are signs and symptoms of infection you may need to consult your doctor for antibiotics.
Homemade defense systems
Fortunately, you can minimize the impact from mosquitoes. There are lots of repellant products available, but there are also a slew of handmade solutions made from common household items, concocted by thrifty and inventive consumers.
Let’s take a look at some of the new home remedies that are getting rave reviews:
- Start by positioning all items on your property so that they do not collect rain water. Make sure to empty any buckets of water after using them. Mosquitos use standing water as breeding grounds.
- Another one of the most effective home remedies for getting rid of mosquitoes is citronella. Rub citronella oil on exposed areas or burn citronella candles. Oil of citronella is the active ingredient in many of the candles, torches, or coils that can be burned to produce a vapor or smoke that repels mosquitoes. These are only useful outdoors when the wind isn’t blowing.
- Many agree that garlic is one of the best home remedies for getting rid of mosquitoes. Garlic sprays are available that you can apply directly to your skin as a repellant. They also make garlic sprays that are applied around the home like any other pesticide.
- You can also make your own natural repellent by mixing lavender oil and witch hazel in a spray bottle.
- Next time you take your clothes out of the dryer, don’t throw the fabric softener sheet away. Some say fabric softener sheets are good for repelling mosquitos. Just stick them in your pockets and rub them on your exposed skin.