Mosquitos, Myth vs Reality.
We are definitely in the middle of some serious mosquito days right now in Puerto Vallarta, so let's look at some real science and de-bunk some myths, in the process maybe help you avoid getting bites.
First some interesting facts. There are over 2,700 species of mosquito and the species vary depending on geography. Several species are not capable of biting animals, several species transmission of diseases also varies depending on species. The main source of food for all mosquitos is plant nectar. Female mosquitos will search out a blood meal when it is time to lay eggs. Males lack the mouth parts to bite. Of those female mosquitoes capable of blood feeding, human blood meals are seldom first or second choices. Horses, cattle, smaller mammals and/or birds are preferred.
Myth. Mosquitoes prefer a certain human blood type.
True. The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study observing the landing preference of the Aedes albopictus mosquito. From the study, when looking at blood types A, B, AB and O, the mosquitoes were more attracted to persons with type O blood, with type A blood being the next preferred blood type.
There are other factors that work to attract mosquitos. Substances, such as ammonia and lactic acid, found in sweat are known to attract mosquitoes. People with higher body temperatures, due to genetics, exercise, fever or pregnancy, also attract them. Mosquitos use sight as well as smell to find their meal! Movement is a big indicator to a mosquito that you might be a target, wearing black, dark blue or red clothing can also make you a mosquito magnet. One study even showed that mosquitoes are attracted to people who have been drinking beer – and this was independent of any of the above factors.
Myth. Carbon Dioxide is the only thing that attracts mosquitos.
False. As you have seen from the previous myth, many factors are at play. However, one of the key ways mosquitoes locate their targets is by smelling the carbon dioxide emitted in their breath—they use an organ called a maxillary palp to do this, and can detect carbon dioxide from as far as 164 feet away. As a result, people who simply exhale more of the gas over time—generally, larger people—have been shown to attract more mosquitoes than others. This is one of the reasons why children get bit less often than adults, on the whole.
Myth. My skin is more attractive to mosquitos.
True. Lively Skin is a real thing. Some research has shown that the types and amount of bacteria on one’s skin can play a role in bringing on the mosquitoes as well. Our dermal casing is naturally teeming with microscopic life, and the whole shebang creates a distinct fragrance. In one study, a group of men was divided into those who were highly attractive to mosquitoes and those who were not. The delicious ones had more of certain microbes on their skin than the unattractive ones, but fewer types – a larger community but less diverse. The bacteria factor could also explain why some mosquitoes are drawn to ankles and feet, an especially ripe source of bacteria.
Myth. My skin is less attractive to mosquitos.
True. Some researchers have started looking at the reasons why a minority of people seem to rarely attract mosquitoes in the hopes of creating the next generation of insect repellants. Using chromatography to isolate the particular chemicals these people emit, scientists at the UK’s Rothamsted Research lab have found that these natural repellers tend to excrete a handful of substances that mosquitoes don’t seem to find appealing. Eventually, incorporating these molecules into advanced bug spray could make it possible for even a Type O, exercising, pregnant woman in a black shirt to ward off mosquitoes for good.
Myth. All mosquito repellents are equally effective.
False. As the American Mosquito Control Association explains, mosquito repellents come in a variety of forms – sprays, creams, natural solutions, etc. While some prove useful, others lack in effectiveness. Mosquito repellents containing DEET remain the most recommended form of prevention. Experts recommend a product that contains 10-30 percent DEET. These repellents can be used on children ages 2 months and above. A product with 10 percent DEET provides protection for about two hours, while 30 percent products last up to five hours. Other repellents with the active ingredient picaridin are also effective, but regardless of which type of repellent you use, it’s a good idea to wash off once you come indoors.
Myth. If you scratch a mosquito bite enough, it will stop itching and heal faster.
False. Depending on how your body reacts to mosquito bites, scratching might seem like the only option. But, scratching a mosquito bite actually can prolong the healing process.
Myth. The use of concentrated heat after insect bites/stings is an effective way to reduce swelling, pain, and itch.
True. A study in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology concluded: "Locally administrated concentrated heat leads to fast amelioration of symptoms. Usually an absence of symptoms is noticeable 10 minutes after administration. Pain reduction is the dominant effect. Compared with alternatives of pruritus and pain treatment after insect bites/stings, concentrated heat seems to be the fastest treatment option available."
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