The rainy season is here, and in the Philippines that means mosquito-borne diseases are just around the corner. As Pinoys, we are mosquito-savvy, so to speak. We know about better than to leave stagnant water unattended. Insect repellents to us are like soaps -- we have our favorite brands and we bring one any time we travel. However, there are instances when one may be prone to mosquito bites. Here are a possible few:
1. You're pregnant. Here's more reason to make sure you put on insect repellent, preggy mom. According to Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida, pregnant women can be more attractive to mosquitoes, making them more prone to bites. Carbon dioxide and heat are the biggest draws for mosquitoes, Harry Savage, chief research entomologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CNN. As any pregnant woman knows, she feels hotter than normal since she acts as a "radiator" for the fetus.
As per CDC recommendations, it is “safe for women at any stage of pregnancy (and nursing moms) to use insect repellents containing DEET,” reported The Atlantic. It is also true for those containing picaridin as long as the repellent is used per manufacturer instructions. Find out about the different kinds of insect repellent, and how you can buy the right one here.
2. You stay out late in the afternoon. Dengue-carrying mosquitoes are most active at dusk, just before evening, so your chances of getting bitten at this hour are higher. It's the reason why the Department of Health (DOH) advocates the “4 o’clock habit.” It’s a campaign that encourages communities to “search and destroy possible mosquito-breeding places” at 4 p.m. every day. Cleaning before dusk reduces the risk of the bugs laying eggs.
3. You haven’t showered. Aside from carbon dioxide, mosquitoes are also able to detect their target by sensing human musk -- a combination of skin odor, sweat, and bacteria, according to research from the University of California, as cited by the Department of Science and Technology's Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD). In the future, this significant discovery can be used to camouflage humans from mosquitoes or lure them to their death, added DOST-PCHRD.
Plus, some species of mosquito are also attracted to the stinky smell of bacteria on your feet, which is why you'll find them biting your ankles or legs. The takeaway? Scrub in between your toes!
4. You’re exercising. “If you’re giving off extra heat, they may find you easier,” said Dr. Michael Smith, chief medical editor at WebMD. And you’re surely doing so if you’re exercising. Apart from that, mosquitoes also rely on their sight when seeking out targets, so moving around makes you an easier one.
5. You’re drinking alcohol. It’s not only bad for your liver, it makes you a mosquito magnet, too. “One study found drinking alcohol might make you more attractive to mosquitoes,” said Dr. Smith. This could be because people breathe a little harder (therefore producing more carbon dioxide) when they're intoxicated or that it makes their skin a little warmer, Joseph Conlon, a medical entomologist and the technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association, told NBC News.
A word on mosquito patches: Skin patches that promise to repel mosquitoes are not at all effective, found a study from the New Mexico State University.
“We didn't find any evidence that it has any effect on mosquitoes,” Dr. Immo Hansen, an author of the study that compared commercial repellent products, told NPR.
The best product to use is still repellents that have DEET or picaridin as the active ingredient. The DOH highly recommends it as a self-protection measure against mosquito-borne diseases including dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. Plus, make sure your insect repellent is really doing its job. Read more here.