Convinced you are a mosquito magnet? Confounded by other people who are seemingly invisible to mozzies while your body is a mosquito buffet? You have good reason. Science has proven some people are more attractive to the blood-sucking insects than others.
The mosquito menace is part and parcel of living in Southeast Asia. For the most part they prove an unavoidable annoyance. At best, we can keep at bay with mosquito repellents and bug zappers.
However, you might have noticed that some of us seem more prone to being bitten by the flying pests, while others manage to escape without so much as a blemish.
It is not your imagination, mosquitoes really do prefer some people over others.
It turns out there are several factors which can influence your attractiveness as a target for mosquitoes, many of which are to do with how you smell.
Chemical Mosquito Magnets
Mosquitoes are very sensitive to carbon dioxide. In fact, the little pests are so sensitive to CO2 they can detect it from up to 50 metres away.
‘All vertebrates produce carbon dioxide, so what better way could there be for a mosquito to cue in on a host?’ says Dr. Jonathan Day, a mosquito expert at the University of Florida.
How much CO2 you produce depends on your metabolic rate. The higher your metabolic rate the more CO2 your body produces.
Aside from carbon dioxide, mosquitoes are also attracted to chemicals released in our sweat.
Lactic acid, uric acid and ammonia are some of the other compounds that mosquitoes can detect and hone in on. The amount of uric acid your body releases is controlled by your genes. Levels of lactic acid in our bodies increase with strenuous activity like exercise.
So, all these factors together mean that going for a jog is basically painting a bullseye on yourself as far as mozzies are concerned.
Even if you are not engaged in strenuous activity your body is still producing mosquito-attracting compounds to some degree.
Dr. Day says, ‘Pregnant women and overweight or obese people tend to have higher resting metabolic rates, which may make them more attractive to mosquitoes.’
Studies show that mosquitoes have a preference for certain blood types.
People with type O blood are mozzies meal of choice. On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to have type A blood you have the least likelihood of being bitten by a mosquito.
On top of that, about 85 percent of people secrete chemical compounds – saccharides and antigens – which denote our blood type.
Mosquitoes are more attracted to the percentage of the population which are secretors than non-secretors.
Repelling the Threat
Even if you tick all the boxes that make you irresistible to mosquitoes you have some options to prevent yourself becoming a mass of itchy bumps.
Scientists have identified natural compounds which offer ‘significant repellency’ against mosquitoes, and are working on a commercial application for it.