There’s no doubt the rain has arrived in abundance this year and with it has arrived an army of mozzies. I’m sure none of us like being bitten by mosquitoes and find the itchiness of these bites to be annoying and uncomfortable. There is however more to be concerned about when it comes to being bitten by mosquitoes. Many may have heard recently about the increase in Ross River Fever since the rains have brought on this increase in the mosquito population. This is extremely concerning which is why I thought this week I would write about how we might avoid getting bitten and avoid contracting this very debilitating disease.
What I’ve always found fascinating is why mozzies find some of us more attractive than others.
There’s a belief, mosquitoes are attracted by the amount of carbon dioxide in our breath, our body temperature, odorant markers related to our blood type, alcohol, and pregnancy.
If you’re a beer drinker, consuming just 350ml of beer when you’re enjoying the lovely summer outdoors is likely to make you more attractive to mozzies. The jury is out on why this is the case however there’s some belief this may be because of the increase in body temperature and the increase in ethanol emitted in our sweat. So, if you like a beer out on the back deck in mozzie season, you could be in trouble.
Mosquitoes it seems are more likely to target their prey by smelling the carbon dioxide discharged from our breath. It seems the larger we are, the more carbon dioxide we exhale, and the more likely mosquitoes are going to be attracted to us. Interestingly, it’s believed mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide from up to 50 metres away and to detect this carbon dioxide, mosquitoes apparently use an organ known as a maxillary palp.
There has been some research (1) which has shown mosquitoes prefer certain blood types. It’s known mosquitoes will bite us to collect the proteins from our blood and one particular study conducted in a controlled setting reported those with Type O blood have hit the jackpot. If you’re a Type O blood type, according to this study you’re twice as likely to be targeted by mosquitoes than a Type A blood type. If you’re a Type B blood type your attractiveness to the mosquitoes falls in between Type O and Type A. Another fascinating piece of information is around 85% of us secrete through our skin, a chemical signal which will indicate to the mosquito what particular blood type we may be. However, 15% of us won’t secrete this chemical through our skin and are therefore the lucky ones who are less likely to attract the mosquitoes.
If you’re outside undertaking vigorous exercise, you’re also more likely to attract mosquitoes. Obviously, our body temperature is going to rise which mozzies love however it’s also because mosquitoes are more attracted to ammonia, lactic acid, uric acid, and other substances which are sweated out when we exercise.
In 2011 there was a study (2) which indicated that when we have substantial amounts of bacteria of a limited type of bacteria on our skin, this made our skin more tempting to mosquitoes. We all have bacteria on our skin however it was interesting to note having masses of bacteria which covered a greater area of our skin made our skin less appealing. There is a thought that because our feet and ankles naturally have more vigorous bacteria colonies, this may be why we are more likely find mozzies attacking those areas.
It’s also been found if we’re pregnant we’re likely to attract twice as many mozzies. This may be because when we’re pregnant we exhale 21% more carbon monoxide, and our body temperature is higher than normal.
Natural Insect Repellent
When it comes to insect repellent, I’m sure we would all prefer to use something natural. My preference is a spray containing Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus which is the only natural ingredient recommended by the Centre of Disease Control and the World Health Organisation as a natural insect repellent. A study (3) published in the Journal of Insect Science in 2015 found plant-based sprays containing oil of lemon eucalyptus were the only DEET free formulas to deliver strong and long-lasting results. It is important to note there is a difference between oil of lemon eucalyptus and lemon eucalyptus essential oil. Due to the difference in processing, they have quite different chemical compositions and efficacy. The essential oil does not have the effectiveness of the oil of lemon eucalyptus.
Finally. If you are unfortunately enough to contract Ross River Fever, I would suggest you call in to chat to us as there are herbs which to can take which may help with treatment of the virus. We have found a combination of Astragalus, Reishi Mushroom, Siberian Ginseng and Schisandra amongst other herbs to be extremely helpful in treating and recovering from this very debilitating virus.
(1) ncbi.nim.nih.gov JMed Entomol 2004 Jul;4(4):796-9
(3) Journal of Insect Science 2015:15(1):140 DOI:10.1093/jisesa/lev125