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Experts try to crack the code behind why mosquitoes like some people more than others. Plus, tips on keeping mosquitoes at bay and the best mosquito repellents.
Since everyone has slightly different bacteria on their skin, everyone smells a bit different, and it turns out some of us smell better than others. It's not just our bacterial friends who send out smelly signals; mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide in our breath, and they tend to love people who are exercising.
For those of us who smell irresistible, there's more at stake than just some itchy red bumps. I mean sure, there are other health issues to worry about in the summer, but mosquitoes are one we don't give enough attention to. Mosquitoes carry many diseases, such as malaria, chikungunya, zika, and dengue fever, and kill over one million people each year. That's more deaths from mosquitoes than from humans, snakes, and dogs combined!
You’re trying your best to enjoy an evening cookout, but a constant swarm of mosquitoes follows you from grill to poolside. The threat? A pierce to your skin, leaving behind an itchy red welt and possibly even a serious illness. As you swat madly at the pests, you notice that others seem completely unfazed. Could it be that mosquitoes prefer to bite some people over others?
The short answer is yes. Mosquitoes do exhibit blood-sucking preferences, say the experts. "One in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes," reports Jerry Butler, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Florida. But it's not dinner they're sucking out of you. Female mosquitoes -- males do not bite people -- need human blood to develop fertile eggs. And apparently, not just anyone's will do.
Who Mosquitoes Like Best
Although researchers have yet to pinpoint what mosquitoes consider an ideal hunk of human flesh, the hunt is on. "There's a tremendous amount of research being conducted on what compounds and odors people exude that might be attractive to mosquitoes," says Joe Conlon, PhD, technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association. With 400 different compounds to examine, it's an extremely laborious process. "Researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface," he says.
Scientists do know that genetics account for a whopping 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. They've also identified certain elements of our body chemistry that, when found in excess on the skin's surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer.
How and Why Mosquitoes Bite
Female mosquitoes feed on human blood, but not for their own nutritional purposes. They need the protein and other components in the blood to produce their eggs.
The mosquito has a mouthpart called a proboscis, which is like a hypodermic needle. She uses it to pierce your skin and probe around a bit until she finds a capillary to suck the blood from.
She also injects some of her own saliva, which stops the blood from coagulating but is also the point at which she can transmit diseases directly into your bloodstream
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