Mosquito Repellents – Ward Off Those Deadly Mosquitoes!

MosquitoHave you ever wondered why some people are bitten by mosquitoes more often than the others? Scientists have begun researching what influence mosquitoes’ preferences. This will aid in developing the best means of keeping mosquitoes away.

Perhaps you have found yourself caught in a swarm of mosquitoes that seemed to have seen you as more palatable than the rest. The mere thought of mosquito bite – red, itchy skin and even malaria – can be both disgusting and alarming. Why do mosquitoes tend to attack some people while leaving others untouched? Do mosquitoes really have preferences?

Yes, mosquitoes have preferences when it comes to choosing their prey, according to scientists. One in every ten people is highly prone to mosquito bite. Blame female mosquitoes, not the male ones. Only female mosquitoes need to suck blood off humans to develop eggs. Apparently, not all humans have the same blood characteristics that can help mosquitoes in their reproduction.

Who Are the Likely Mosquito Victims?

To date, experts are still not sure of what makes an ideal mosquito victim, but the scientific community is now paying serious attention to this subject in their research. There is a huge amount of scientific data on what odors and compounds are emitted by humans which could make them an ideal target of mosquitoes. With 400 compounds on the list, such research is indeed a laborious one. Only a few compounds have been studied so far.

Almost 85% of susceptibility to mosquito bite can be attributed to genetics. Scientists say that body chemistry influences mosquitoes’ preferences for prey. When certain elements in the body exceed the normal range, susceptibility to insect bites tends to increase.

Steroids and cholesterol on the skin surface are some of the substances that can attract mosquitoes. However, it does not mean that all people with high cholesterol level are always prone to mosquitoes. It is possible that those who are prone to mosquito bites just have a more efficient metabolism, causing excess cholesterol to surface on their skin.

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People who exceed the normal level of certain acids such as uric acid are also more attractive to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes’ nose is more keen to some acids. Actually, mosquitoes have a very strong sense of smell. They can smell their prey from as far as 50 meters.

People who emit too much carbon dioxide are also at high risk. All types of carbon dioxide tend to attract mosquitoes, even those from a far distance. Bigger people tend to emit larger amount of carbon dioxide. This explains why adults tend to be more prone to mosquito bites than do children. Since pregnant women also emit above-the-average amount of carbon dioxide, they have to be more wary of mosquito attack.

Heat and movement will also make you more attractive to mosquitoes. Imagine people playing on the track field, sweating ceaselessly and emitting odorous smell.  As they release more carbon dioxide, mosquitoes will begin to sense them in no time. So next time you are on an outdoor event, try to stay away from playing fields or any area packed with sweaty crowd. Sweating releases lactic acid, another agent that triggers mosquito attack.

One of the oldest species, mosquitoes have been in existence for more than 170 million years, boasting of 175 species in the U.S. alone. As their number is unlikely to dwindle, these summertime pests will continue to pose threats to humans. The least thing we can do is to minimize their health impact.

Leading Mosquito Repellents

Pharmacies and supermarkets abound with chemical-based mosquito repellents, but not all are effective. Chemical-based repellents outnumber natural repellents.

DEET, a popular chemical repellent, has been in the market since 1957. Numerous studies have proved that DEET is the most effective of all commercial repellents. A 23.8% DEET concentration would give five-hour protection. Most brands use between 10% and 30% DEET.

But is DEET safe for humans? Having been used for more than 40 years, DEET has established an impressive safety record. There are only few users who have been hospitalized, most of whom overused the repellent. DEET at a concentration of 10% or less is safe for infants aged two months or above.

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Aside from DEET, there are other chemical repellents available in the market. Several alternatives to DEET gained the support of CDC in 2005.

Although a new player in the U.S., Picaridin has been available in the global market since 1998. Picaridin is the active ingredient in Cutter Advanced. The chemical is as effective as DEET but has the advantage of being odorless, thus leaving a clean feel to users. Picaridin is also safe for infants aged 2 months and above.

Skin-So-Soft from Avon uses IR3535 as its active ingredient. The chemical has been marketed in the U.S. recently. According to research, it is less effective than DEET.

In 2006, the EPA approved metofluthrin. The mosquito repellent has been a hot sell since then. Commercially available as DeckMate Mosquito Repellent, the product comes in two forms. The paper strip version is designed to be used outdoor. It is ideal for decks and patios. There is also a wearable version. It comes with a  replaceable cartridge and can be attached on your clothing. The repellent is released by means of a small fan. Unlike other mosquito repellents, this one should not be applied on the skin.

Natural Mosquito Repellents

Consumers who are environmentally-friendly or health conscious can opt for a number of natural alternatives to chemical repellents.

Soybean oil has been proven to be effective in warding off mosquitoes for 1.5 hours. Research has also showed that cedar, citronella, lemongrass, peppermint,  and geranium oils can keep mosquitoes off for a short while.

For longer protection, you may try eucalyptus oil. Preliminary research findings showed that eucalyptus oil could offer longer production than do other natural oils. The CDC-approved Repel brand contains lemon eucalyptus and offers the same level of protection as that of DEET in low concentrations. This product can be used by children aged 3 years and above.

Household Mosquito Repellents

If you are not comfortable applying or spraying mosquito repellents on your body and clothing, try mosquito traps.

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Mosquito traps are intended to attract mosquitoes and get them trapped or killed. Mosquito traps emit odor or substances that attract female mosquitoes. Among the “baits” used in most brands are moisture, heat, carbon dioxide, and other sorts of byproducts. Mosquito traps can be an effective means of controlling mosquito population if placed in breeding areas.

Another alternative to topical mosquito repellents is insecticide-treated apparel. It is a type of clothing that contains insect-repelling chemicals like permethrin. It is has been used in the armed forces for a couple of years. Permethrin-treated clothing is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who always go camping or mountain climbing.

Remember that using mosquito repellents is just a small part of an integrated pest management. You should check your surrounding for potential breeding places of mosquitoes. Repellents will give you little benefits if you are surrounded by sewage, garbage heap, bird baths and open rain barrels. Eliminating all possible sources of mosquitoes in your home is a fundamental part of integrated pest management.

Mosquitoes as Carriers of Disease

An itchy skin is not the only thing to worry about when bitten by mosquitoes. Some people develop allergies following a mosquito bite. In addition, there are various mosquito-transmitted diseases. For instance, the West Nile virus spread in the U.S. in 1999. There were 62 cases and seven casualties in New York alone. The number of victims increased significantly in 2008. According to the CDC, there were 1,356 cases of West Nile infections and 44 casualties. In the succeeding years, dengue outbreaks hit the U.S. Few cases of malaria, another mosquito-transmitted disease, then followed. Unfortunately, most Americans forget that malaria is still killing a million of people around the world every year.

Although malaria cases are quite rare in the U.S., the West Nile virus warrants a more serious attention as it is likely to stay for an indefinite period of time, and so do disease-carrying mosquitoes.

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