Mosquito Myths Verified: How to Keep Mosquitoes Away

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Written By Kampretz Bianca

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Zzzzzsssssss… a sound that sleepless nights are made of. Many people know the frustration: while your partner sleeps soundly and undisturbed or enjoys the cozy summer evening on the terrace, you yourself are busy – dressed in a turtleneck – protecting yourself from mosquito bites. Unfair, but why is that? Why are some people favored by mosquitoes as blood banks, while others are completely ignored?

Who is particularly bitten by mosquitoes?

In fact, some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. But this is not due to the “sweet blood” particularly, as it is often called, but depends on the exhalations of the body. The smell of carbon dioxide on our breath and the milk and fatty acids on our skin attract mosquitoes. It is these vapors that attract “bloodthirsty” mosquitoes to your home – not the light.

Alcohol and body odor are attractive to mosquitoes

Our smell is a matter of genes and, so to speak, it is up to fate whether or not we extend an invitation for a blood meal to mosquitoes. However, this is only a limited cause for joy for non-mosquito lovers. If no “better” smelling victim is available, people will settle for “second choice.”

What we can influence is mosquitoes’ second preference: alcohol. Drinking alcohol also increases our attractiveness to insects. A study from the University of Regensburg confirms that test subjects were stung significantly more often after drinking alcohol than without it. Mosquitoes obviously like to smell alcohol. Pregnant women’s breath also attracts mosquitoes more because they exhale a particularly large amount of carbon dioxide.

What helps prevent mosquito bites?

If you are a favorite of mosquitoes, it helps to change the smell of your skin – for example with mosquito repellents that you apply to your skin. Because then the skin smells different – and is no longer as attractive to mosquitoes. It is important to apply the product evenly and over a large area. Mosquitoes mercilessly explore every free space.

More tips against mosquito bites:

  • The fan aims to better distribute body odor, which is pleasant to mosquitoes, so that pests cannot smell it as intensely.
  • Shower more often, especially if you are sweating.
  • No alcohol.
  • Avoid near water – especially at dusk.
  • Wear light-colored clothes; mosquitoes are more likely to fly on dark fabrics. Another advantage: you can better recognize an attacker in light-colored clothing.
  • Even if it’s difficult: cover your body as much as possible with clothes and avoid shorts and sundresses. At least you don’t make things so easy for the animals. Black flies However, you can safely keep them away because they cannot bite your clothes.
  • Seal your windows against animal intruders with mosquito screens. In addition to flies and mosquitoes, they also keep other animals like Stink Bugs or Amber Forest Cockroaches reliably distant.

Insect repellents: DEET, icaridin and essential oils

If you want to spend a hot summer night outdoors, you can keep mosquitoes away with so-called “repellents”. The active ingredient diethyltoluamide, or simply DEET, has the strongest effect. It not only protects against native mosquitoes, but also against invasive immigrants such as the tiger mosquito. Anyone planning travel abroad to areas where malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya fever or Zika virus, it is advisable to stock up on them. However, you should definitely avoid eyes and mucous membranes as DEET can cause irritation.

The active ingredient Icaridin has a similar effect to DEET, but is less irritating to mucous membranes. Keeps mosquitoes away in Germany and Central Europe.

Some also rely on natural mosquito repellents with the active ingredient lemon eucalyptus oil, PMD for short, or essential oils such as tea tree oil or lemongrass oil. A Test by Stiftung Warentest (external link) certifies that these products present slightly worse results.

This is why you shouldn’t scratch if you’re bitten by a mosquito

When a mosquito bites and sucks blood, a certain protein gets under the skin with the saliva, which inhibits blood clotting. Furthermore, the vessels are dilated and the puncture site is anesthetized – everything is ideal for a peaceful blood meal. The body defends against this with an allergic reaction and releases histamine – the area begins to itch and swell. Unfortunately, through the urge to scratch, we achieve the opposite of lasting relief: we simply distribute the substances and the body remains in defense mode. Result: the bite increases even more and the itching intensifies. In the worst case, a bite can become infected, for example if itching causes germs to enter the scratched wound.

How to treat mosquito bites – with cold or heat

That’s why the first thing you do after being caught by a mosquito is to cool the bite. Whether with an ice pack (be careful with freezing), a cold spoon or a cooling, itch-relieving gel – the cold reduces itching. If a bite becomes infected, a cooling cream containing cortisone may help. If in doubt, you may need to see a doctor if the inflammation worsens.

But you can also use heat to relieve itchiness from mosquito bites because heat destroys the protein. There are so-called anti-prick pens on the market. In the head of the pen there is a thermal plate that is attached to the point. The temperature is limited to 51 degrees Celsius to avoid burns. The tip of pressing a heated spoon into the spot works on the same principle. However, there is a risk of burning yourself because it is difficult to regulate the temperature. The sooner this happens, the better.

How do you keep mosquitoes out of your home and garden?

If you want to prevent mosquitoes and their offspring from feeling particularly comfortable, you should avoid offering possible breeding sites. Rain barrels filled with water should be covered and birdbaths, flower pots, watering cans, etc. filled. they must be emptied at least once a week. Mosquitoes are particularly attracted to water that has been standing for long periods of time.

However, this is just an attempt to keep the bloodsuckers away. If there are neighbors nearby who don’t take everything very seriously, you will no longer be able to keep the area mosquito-free.

With a sea of ​​aromatic plants against mosquitoes

Gardening expert Brigitte Goss, from the program “We in Bavaria”, recommends creating a garden or balcony where plants grow that mosquitoes don’t like the smell of: these include scents such as garlic, lemon, geranium scent and lavender. According to Goss, they scare away mosquitoes. However, isolated plants are not enough; it has to be a sea of ​​aromatic plants.

In the video: Plants against mosquitoes

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