Health & Wellness: Mosquitoes— Summer’s Unwelcomed Guests
As the sun comes out to play, so do these little insects. Learn how to prepare yourself for mosquito attacks.
Summer is a season filled with adventuring on paddleboards and snoozing on the sand. Unfortunately, it is also a time filled with warding off mosquitoes during any activity and covering your bite marks so they won’t scar in the sun.
What attracts mosquitos? Because mosquitos go into hibernation when the weather becomes too cold, the only guaranteed solace can be found in winter. But when spring or summer comes around, these pesky creatures wake up for a mid-year snack. Human blood to mosquitoes is as delectable as Pizza Time to a college student on a Saturday night.
Dr. Gail Knops, an M.D. at Western’s Health Center, said although science has yet to pinpoint exactly what genetic factors lead to attracting mosquitos, scientists are starting to hone in on an idea.
“Certain chemicals that are present variably on our skin through our own unique metabolisms seems likely, but we really don’t know which ones or what combinations for sure,” Knops said.
Ultimately, some unlucky people are just more prone to attract mosquitoes than others, and, to this day, science has not figured out why.
What prevents mosquitos? No one wants to take on the responsibility of dealing with mosquito bites all summer, so preventing them is an optimal approach. Wearing thicker, full-body-coverage clothing is ideal for deflecting bites, but difficult in warmer weather.
Repellants are the next best bet. DEET is the most effective chemical to repel insects, with Picaridin and IR3535 tying at a close second, according to the Environmental Working Group.
For those who either cannot or choose to not put chemicals on their skin, there are all-natural alternatives.
“Years of study has only shown that there is no or limited protection from alternatives such as essential oils… the one exception to that is oil of lemon eucalyptus,” Knops said.
Lemon eucalyptus oil can be purchased at most health stores, but has a shorter active span than the other artificial repellants and thus must be applied more frequently.
What cures mosquito bites? If you are not lucky enough to ward off the mosquitoes, there are many aftercare options. Applying ice or any cold compress immediately after contact with the mosquito helps reduce swelling, Knops says. She also explains over-the-counter creams containing hydrocortisone can calm bite marks. Everyday Health and Gardenista recommend these natural alternatives to over-the-counter items*:
- Honey — contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Apple Cider Vinegar — mix with equal parts water to speed up recovery time and reduce inflammation
- Garlic — although some claim eating garlic or rubbing cloves over your body helps deter mosquitos, rubbing garlic on a bite can relieve pain and itching, as well as reduce the risk of infection
- Teabags — a wet teabag relieves discomfort
- Oatmeal — a paste of unmade oatmeal mixed with water soothes itching and relieves inflammation
- Aloe Vera — either applying straight from the plant or acquiring a natural aloe vera gel reduces itching, inflammation and discomfort
- Hemp Seed Oil — derivative of the cannabis plant, this oil will not get you high but reduce pain and inflammation
*Everyone’s skin reacts differently to these methods. Although numerous people have attested to the power of these remedies, it is always safest to test a small area of skin before applying entirely to the infected area.