Why do mosquitoes bite me?

Avoiding mosquito bites is one of the battles we fight during the summer season. Popular wisdom is extensive, but today there is also scientific evidence that definitively dismisses some myths , such as being attracted to sweet blood or the smell of skin, or yellow clothes catching your attention.

The specialist in Allergology of the University Hospital Complex of A Coruña (Chuac) , Soledad Sánchez, highlights two recent studies published in the scientific journal Current Biology last year and that are very revealing. Their conclusions indicate that mosquitoes integrate both olfactory and visual signals , but they better identify the former: “The olfactory signal is decisive for the mosquito to bite.”

One of these studies shows that a major claim is the carbon dioxide (CO2) that we breathe out . The amount of CO2 that we emit is not the same in all, there are people who dismiss more, such as subjects suffering from obesity , pregnant women and those with a higher metabolic rate , so it is they who must be more careful.

The second study sheds light on the controversy surrounding whether people who exercise outdoors are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes. This work reveals that this is indeed the case because these insects detect the acidic volatile compounds that are in sweat .

Dark colors are more attractive

Also, it is known that they detect visual signals and that they do it better if the visual field is reduced, but the effect that colors produce is controversial . There is no clear evidence in this regard, but the most widespread hypothesis is that they are attracted to dark colors more than light colors.

On the other hand, the work carried out by allergists has revealed that there is a possible relationship with blood groups : “Mosquitoes are more attracted to people with blood of group O and less to those who are type A. The mechanism is unknown. this happens but it is what clinical experience tells us. ”

Less than 20% of mosquitoes bite

There are approximately 3,500 described species of mosquitoes , but they bite less than 20%. One of them is the Culex pipiens , which is the most frequent in our country, it usually bites at night and is in many houses. For some years now, Aedes albopictus , better known as the tiger mosquito , which entered Catalonia in 2004, has also been quite common ; it is larger, itches during the day, its sting pierces clothing and causes l ions with an important inflammatory component .

The males do not bite, they feed on vegetable exudates. Females bite , although not to feed but to develop eggs .

Immediate and delayed reactions

The reaction in humans of the mosquito bite is caused by the saliva that it introduces into our body. There are two types of reaction: the immediate one and the one that occurs up to 24 and 36 hours later. The delayed one, which is less frequent, usually causes a blistering lesion and can last several days, while the immediate one is usually a swelling that disappears in a short time .

Unlike wasps and bees , it is not common for mosquitoes to cause allergies, and if they do, serious ones are rare . In any case, Soledad Sánchez warns that when a body becomes sensitized to a substance, there is a greater chance that an allergy will develop.

Prevention of stings

As for preventive measures, this expert from the hospital in A Coruña recommends wearing light clothing , covering your arms and legs well, and using repellents, which are quite effective.

Once the bite occurs, applying local cold , using antihistamines and corticosteroid creams are the most useful measures, although the most important thing is not to scratch : “Many times the effect caused by scratching is worse than the bite itself .” Alcohol does not make sense (it only serves to disinfect). “I recommend bringing a kit with repellent, antihistamines and a corticosteroid cream,” concludes Soledad Sánchez.

 

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