This is the real reason you keep getting bitten by mosquitoes

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Sophia Charalambous
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We knew it: some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others and here’s why.

Mosquito bites are such a bugbear – excuse the pun. In summer they seem set on spoiling every social occasion from after work drinks to weddings, ruining months of meticulous outfit planning by plastering body parts in blotchy, red lumps. 

If you’re the person always thinking, “Why is nobody else getting bitten but me?” it’s because, actually, you are more appealing – sorry. And it’s not due to having ‘sweet blood’, like everyone insists on telling you, because mosquitoes are after protein not sugar. 

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Dr Ross Perry, medical director at Cosmedics Skin Clinics, explains: “It is not fully known why some people get bitten more than others but many believe it can be down to genetics, blood types, skin type and chemicals emitted from the body.”

There are 30 types of mosquitoes to watch out for in Britain alone, and the way they find you is first through detecting heat and carbon dioxide, then by seeing you and finally by smelling you.. To top it all off there is the added factor of how badly the bites swell, which happens because of an allergic reaction to the proteins in mosquito saliva. 

Dr Perry adds: “People can react very differently to bites and often those people who tend to suffer with eczema or hay fever have more of an allergic tendency so the reactions tend to be severe and longer lasting. Antihistamines and hydrocortisone creams are good things to help soothe and you must not pick or scratch if possible, as that will make it worse and increase the risk of infection.”

Dr Lizzie Tuckey of the London Vaccination Clinic, helps to outline some of the main reasons why you might be a prime target…

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If you go to the gym a lot

Turns out those hours spent in the gym might be the reason you’re finding yourself covered in bites. Studies have discovered mosquitoes are attracted to bodily fluids excreted through sweat. They also like warmth – so a higher body temperature will get them excited. Dr Tuckey says: “Mosquitoes are attracted to heat and to the lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other compounds emitted in sweat. So if you are a hot and clammy type you might be more susceptible to bites.”

If you’re bored or tired

We get it – life can be really dull sometimes. But maybe you would yawn less if you knew mossies can detect carbon dioxide from as far as 50 metres away, and according to studies, are attracted to the gas. So getting an early night’s sleep to avoid tiredness is beneficial in more ways than one. Dr Tuckey adds: “Mosquitoes follow hundreds of smells and some species travel up to several miles to find a host dinner, but about 20% of people are very irresistible. People who breathe out more carbon dioxide or people with denser constitutions are more susceptible to getting bitten.” 

If you’re pregnant

Pregnant women exhale roughly 21% more carbon dioxide and their body temperature is around 37.8 degrees compared to the average 37 degrees. So, as Dr Tuckey outlines above, it should be no surprise that pregnant women attract large numbers of mosquitoes.

It could be your blood

Seeing as though mosquitoes bite to harvest proteins in the blood, it seems plausible they would have a preference. Dr Tuckey explains: “Interestingly genetics also has a role to play as some people are just unfortunately determined to have more lactic acid in their body odour and therefore will be tastier for mosquitoes. Other genetic factors that can make you more susceptible to a bite includes your blood type. Studies have shown that Blood Group Type O are more likely to get bitten.”

If you dress in dark colours

Apparently if you like dressing in black, navy blue and red, you’ll stand out even more as potential prey. Studies show dark colours trap carbon dioxide from the body. Dr Tuckey adds: “They [mosquitoes] can distinguish between light and dark, they don’t have cones though so they can’t see colour per se.”

If you drink alcohol

Some studies have found one 12-ounce (350ml) bottle of beer makes you more susceptible to bites. Dr Tuckey says: “Alcohol that can’t be processed by the liver can lead to an increase of lactic acid and other products in the sweat. Furthermore excess alcohol digestion can lead to increased carbon dioxide excretion in the breath. It also causes blood vessels in the skin to enlarge making it easier for mosquitoes to track you down.” A good excuse to stick to mocktails?

The best products to help repel mosquitoes

  • Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Scrub


    Geranium flowers are known to be a natural inhibitor of mosquitoes - and that includes having the plant around your patio, garden or balcony. But just to be on the safe side, apply to the skin in a scrub form to provide that extra layer of protection from bites.

  • Aspivenin


    A lifesaver for anyone who gets really bad bites, this pen sucks out the venom using a pump action. It should be a staple in anyone’s first aid kit. Aspivenin stops the bite enlarging and puts a stop to the endless itching. Finish with an antiseptic cream over the top and the bite should disappear in no time.

  • Avon Skin So Soft Dry Oil Spray


    Launching in the 1960s, this oil is still Avon’s most coveted beauty product with customers reporting it repels bugs. No wonder, as the ingredient list includes moisturising jojoba alongside bug repellents citronellol and limonene. Use all year round for good skin – plus the price point is nothing to quibble at. 

  • Boots Repel Maximum Wipes 15 sheets


    These wipes, which can be used on skin or surfaces if necessary, contain 50 per cent DEET for protection from tropical mosquitoes for four hours and six-and-a-half hours in non-tropical climates. It is maybe not necessary in Britain, but a must for mosquito-heavy countries.

  • Incognito Hair and Body Wash


    One of the best brands around for mosquito repellent, take this natural, vegan wash with you on holiday or use at home. The Java citronella oil, bergamot, and tea tree makes it antiseptic and anti fungal.

  • Jungle Formula Mosquito Killer Plug-In


    Lasting for 45 nights, keep this plugged in over the summer and on holiday – they can be bought with different plug heads, too. The liquid contains an insecticide called prallethrin to kill mosquitoes, midges and biting insects. 

  • Neal’s Yard Remedies Citronella Formula


    Containing a mixture of oils including citronella, witch hazel and lavender, spray liberally all over the body and even in your room on holiday or in the garden to protect yourself from bugs. Great for anyone who prefers natural products and it won’t break the bank either. 

  • Tisserand Citronella Organic Essential Oil


    Citronella masks the scent of body by-products that they love, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Splosh this oil liberally around patios or doorways, dab onto clothes, burn in lamps around the house or mix with a carrier oil in a 1:1 ratio. The result? Everything smells zingy fresh and those pesky bugs will be looking for someone else to prey on. 

Images: Getty / supplied by brands


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Sophia Charalambous

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