I can’t spend more than 30 seconds outside right now before I get besieged by mosquitoes. I’ve always joked that I must smell better and have sweeter blood than people like my husband, who seems immune to the pesky bloodsuckers.
As it turns out, there’s some truth to that.
James Logan, a medical entomologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told NPR that “the trait for being attractive or unattractive to mosquitoes is genetically controlled.” Logan said different people “smell differently to mosquitoes.”
The bite-free folks who rarely find themselves with itchy mosquito bite welts almost seem to produce a “natural repellent,” explains Logan. On the other hand, roughly 20 percent of people are mosquito magnets — like me — and are bitten more often on a consistent basis, according to Smithsonian.com.
Here are five reasons that mosquitoes may find you irresistible:
- You smell delicious: Mosquitoes use an organ called a maxillary palp to detect carbon dioxide that’s emitted when we breathe. “Mosquitoes find victims at closer range by smelling the lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other substances expelled via their sweat, and are also attracted to people with higher body temperatures,” according to the Smithsonian report.
- Your blood and body type: The Smithsonian says people with Type O blood are more attractive to mosquitoes. I have Type O blood, and this seems to ring true for me. Studies have also shown that pregnant women attract twice as many mosquitoes as other people, which is likely due to amount of carbon dioxide they exhale (21 percent more than the average person) and their higher body temperature.
- Your clothes: “If you dress in dark colors you stand out against the horizon and mosquitoes [can see you,]” Dr. Jonathan Day, a medical entomologist and mosquito expert at the University of Florida, told ABC News. He recommends that you avoid dressing in dark denim or other dark fabrics to better ward off mosquitoes.
- Your drink. One small study found that tipping back a beer can make you more appealing to skeeters, although researchers aren’t sure why that’s the case. Still, it’s something to thing about before you grab a cold one and head outside.
- The weather. Mosquitoes are typically the most active and hungry for blood at dawn and dusk, when the humidity goes up and the winds die down. So, you’re putting yourself more at risk of mosquito bites if you’re outside during those times. You can use a fan pointed at yourself to help keep the pesky insects at bay because “mosquitoes can’t fly in a breeze faster than 1 mile per hour,” Day told Time.
You can take steps to protect yourself from those pesky, potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes by using a repellent containing 30 to 95 percent DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Learn about the “5 Best Repellents for Zika Virus Mosquitoes.”
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