WINNIPEG — This summer has had its fair share of rain and humidity. Mixed together, the two produce the ultimate climate for mosquitoes to thrive.
Mosquitoes don’t have great vision, so it’s unlikely they discriminate based on looks.
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“They mostly rely on their ability to pick up smells and their sensitivity to warmth, which will bring them close to something they want to feed on,” said Robert Anderson, associate professor and mosquito control researcher at the University of Winnipeg.
According to Anderson, it’s all about our body’s release of carbon dioxide, the warmth we omit and how much we sweat. Unfortunately, the things we can’t really control.
“Once they get closer, they start to pickup things like body odor, carbon dioxide and are sensitive to moisture (sweat coming off our skin),” Anderson said.
A lot of the mosquitoes that cause problems in Canada are what researchers call “nuisance mosquitoes.” They will feed on almost anything that has blood in them, including humans.
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But why do they seem to only attack me? Are you sure there isn’t another reason?
Some people think it has to do with a person’s blood, and how sweet it is. Others, say the foods we eat, like bananas and garlic, can either bring them closer or drive them away.
“Those are just myths. They’re common, but people like me spend all our time debunking them,” Anderson said.
Carl Lowenberger, mosquito and parasite researcher at Simon Fraser University in B.C., said you’d have to eat so much garlic that you’d have no friends.
There are also some other myths that aren’t scientifically supported. One notion is that those with diabetes and high blood pressure are more at-risk, but there has been no conclusive research to determine them as tastier targets.
Pregnant women and those who are heavier may be more vulnerable. Lowenberger said it might be because they exert more energy, sweat more and release more carbon dioxide. But overall, these bugs aren’t one to discriminate.
“If you’re a warm body, they’ll bite you,” Lowenberger said.
Why do I react differently than my friend?
The bumps are an allergic reaction to the protein in the mosquito saliva, and the saliva is what keeps the blood flowing into their belly.
So, naturally, like any allergen, certain people get hit harder.
“Some people get quite severe bumps and a lot of itchiness and redness, while others virtually don’t notice it at all,” Anderson said.
And even if you tend to get attacked, there’s one thing you need to remember – don’t scratch.
“Scratching is really the wrong idea,” Anderson said. “You do a little bit more damage to the area in and around the bite. That releases more histamine and that’s what you get that itchy, red reaction.”
So there’s no way around getting bitten?
Maybe, maybe not.
Mosquitoes seem to love dawn and dusk, so if you avoid heading out during those times, you’re better off.
Some experts even recommend showering or rinsing away sweat, or changing out of dirty clothes.
With that being said, if you’re an “unattractive” person to mosquitoes, and you’re by yourself, Anderson warns you’re going to get fed on because they don’t have any other choice.
Advice you should keep in mind because these bugs aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
With files from Carmen Chai