While spring and summer may bring more outdoor time, they also come with the potential of receiving mosquito bites.

When a person receives a mosquito bite, the mosquito’s saliva enters your skin and oftentimes, the result is an itchy bump.

At the onset of mosquito bite season, here’s a deeper look into what attracts mosquitoes to certain individuals, the steps you can take every day to reduce risk of being bit by a mosquito and how you can treat mosquito bites.

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Why do mosquitoes bite?

There are several factors that determine how attractive an individual is to mosquitoes, such as: body odor, pregnancy and alcohol consumption.

Body odor

A recent study published in Current Biology found that mosquitoes are attracted to certain human scents and repelled by others.

Researchers compared different human scents and found that “mosquitoes consistently, night after night, would choose the same human scent and not prefer some humans,” Conor McMeniman, a researcher in the study, told Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

A separate study, from BMC Microbiology, produced similar results — chemical composition in an individual’s unique skin microbiome can range from poorly-attractive to highly-attractive to mosquitos. Researchers found that “some people produce specific body odors that make them more attractive than others to mosquitoes.”

Body heat

Mosquitoes are attracted to body heat. Female mosquitoes will move toward heat sources, reports a 2017 study.

“We found that females (mosquitoes) do not discriminate between heat sources of different sizes, but actively orientate towards closer sources at host temperature,” said the study. “Heat alone is sufficient to elicit orientation behavior.”

Pregnancy

Pregnant women are twice as attractive to mosquitoes as non-pregnant women, which makes them more susceptible to malaria, according to a study published in the journal BMJ.

Researchers reported that pregnant women’s abdomen’s are slightly hotter than non-pregnant women — body heat releases more volatile substances from skin surface, making it easier for mosquitoes to detect. Another reason is that women in advanced stages of pregnancy exhale at 21% more volume than non-pregnant women. “Mosquitoes are attracted to the moisture and carbon dioxide in exhaled breath,” the study reports.

Alcohol

Consuming alcohol can make an individual more susceptible to mosquitoes, reports a study from the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. Researchers found that mosquitoes landed on individuals significantly more often after they consumed beer.

Colors

According to research, mosquitoes are attracted to certain colors, such as red, orange, cyan and black.

“Sensitivity to orange and red correlates with mosquitoes’ strong attraction to the color spectrum of human skin, which is dominated by these wavelengths,” the 2022 study reports.

The study also reports that wearing colors such as green, blue, purple and white could deter mosquitoes.

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How to protect yourself from mosquito bites

Here are some effective measures to prevent getting mosquito bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Use insect repellent: The CDC recommends using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellants, such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol.
  • Long sleeves and pants: Cover yourself with loose-fitting long-sleeve shirts, pants and socks. For added protection, treat your clothes with 0.5% permethrin. Here is a video for how to treat clothing.
  • Keep bugs outside: Use screens in windows and doors to keeps mosquitoes from entering your home.

What is the best mosquito repellant?

Keeping pesky mosquitoes away can be difficult. Some of the most effective mosquito repellants contain DEET, reports the CDC. DEET is an ingredient created in 1946 by the U.S. Army to keep insects at bay. The brand OFF!, which is commonly sold at grocery stores and pharmacies, contains between 15% to 25% DEET and can repel insects for up to eight hours.

How to get rid of a mosquito bite

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You cannot get rid of a mosquito bite, but you can treat a bite over time by: applying an ice pack or by using anti-itch cream, toothpaste or baking soda.

Home remedies for mosquito bites

When a mosquito bites you, it injects saliva into your skin, which leaves a bump and itchy feeling, per the CDC. Everyone reacts differently to mosquito bites, some people experience more itching or swelling than others. If your bite is particularly itchy, here are a few ways to treat the bite and avoid scratching.

  • Apply an ice pack: Cool off the bite with an ice pack for about 10 minutes, the coolness can help reduce swelling and numb the bite for short-term relief, reports Healthline. Reapply the cold pack as needed.
  • Baking soda: The CDC recommends mixing baking soda and water to create a paste. Apply the paste and wash it off after 10 minutes.
  • Toothpaste: Apply a generous amount of toothpaste to your bite, keep the paste on for a couple hours and wash away. This at-home hack may reduce itchiness.
  • Anti-itch cream: If itchiness is severe, try an over-the-counter anti-itch or antihistamine cream to help relieve an itchy bite.
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How long does it take for mosquito bites to go away?

Symptoms associated with common mosquito bites take around three to six days to go away, according to Seattle’s Children’s Hospital. If you’re experiencing serious symptoms after being bit by a mosquito, you may need to consult a doctor.

Is it bad to scratch a mosquito bite itch?

Scratching a mosquito bite itch may result in it getting itchier, not relief. According to Unity Point Health, scratching the bite may increase the chance of getting a skin infection. Using an anti-inch cream or a home remedy like toothpaste can relieve itchiness.

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