Summer is the time for that high-pitched buzzing we all dread when drifting off to sleep. If they aren’t keeping us from sleeping at night, they are carrying potentially life-threatening diseases in certain parts of the world like Africa, Asia and South America where malaria, West Nile virus, yellow fever and dengue fever can spread via mosquito bites. Each year, around 250 million new cases of malaria emerge killing almost 800,000 people – mostly children under five and pregnant women – according to the World Health Organisation.
Thankfully in the UK, the worst things we have to deal with are usually the after effects of mosquito bites.
How to combat mosquito bites this summer
Although it’s impossible to avoid mosquito bites completely, here are some useful tips to help you avoid them as much as possible:
- Get a mosquito net if you are camping, sleeping outside or with the windows open.
- Even if you’re in the garden, use a fan – it will help prevent the insects from congregating.
- Mosquitos are poor fliers so a fan will make it difficult for them to land on you.
- Use antibacterial soap as mosquitoes are attracted to the bacteria on your skin.
- Wear long sleeves and trousers. This is important in the evenings when mosquitoes tend to feed the most.
- Install an electric plug-in mosquito repellent inside your home.
- Apply insect repellent to your skin or spray the room before you sleep while keeping the doors and windows closed.
- Use a mosquito net, ideally treated with an insecticide, and make sure it remains closed at all times.
- While on holiday, try to stay somewhere with mosquito screening on the doors and windows. Failing that, make sure the doors and windows close tightly.
- Avoid travelling to parts of the world where mosquitoes are most common – the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) lists these.
- Get rid of or steer clear of any stagnant water nearby such as pools or puddles – they can become breeding grounds for these pests during summer months.
- Wear light clothing. Mosquitos are drawn to heat and as dark clothes absorb more heat than light-coloured ones, you will be at greater risk of bites if you dress in dark colours.
- The Telegraph comments that mosquitos target victims through smell and are drawn to smelly socks and sweaty feet, rather than freshly washed ones.
How to treat mosquito bites
If, despite taking precautions, you are still unlucky enough to get bitten by these persistent pests, try the following:
- Heat up a metal spoon using hot water and press it directly against the bite for a couple of minutes. When you take it off, the itch should be gone as the protein that causes the itch can’t withstand moderately high temperatures.
- Tea tree oil is an anti-inflammatory and can often relieve itching and swelling. It also has antibacterial and anti-viral properties that help prevent infection.
- You can repel the bugs as well as control the symptoms of bites using other essential oils too.
- If at all possible, don’t scratch the bite. Although scratching will momentarily relieve the itch, it simply spreads the saliva that causes itching. The body then releases more histamine antibodies and makes the effects worse.
- Try using ice to relieve the itching and prevent further swelling.
Why mosquitoes bite you
Mosquitos “like” some people more than others while some people simply have a stronger reaction to the bites. The reason for this is your personal reaction to the mosquito’s saliva injected during the bite which creates an itchy lump the next day. Like all allergic reactions, the severity of insect bites varies from one person to another.
There are several myths about mosquitos that medical research has clarified. The truth is:
- Mosquitoes are neither attracted nor repelled by food like bananas, marmite, beer or garlic.
- They are not attracted to certain blood types or because you have ‘sweet blood’.
- Mosquitos are greatly attracted to heat and carbon dioxide.
- It’s thought that being pregnant makes you a mosquito magnet. This is because large people produce more heat and carbon dioxide than others. Indeed evidence also suggests that size matters: Mosquitoes prefer men to women, adults to children and larger people to smaller people.
- Sweat and skin secretions can make one person more attractive to a mosquito than another.
- Mosquitoes are believed to be the deadliest animals on Earth: more deaths are associated with these irritating insects than any other animal on the planet.
- Only female mosquitoes bite – they use the protein they collect for their eggs.
- Their wings beat up to 500 times a minute, explaining their incessant buzzing sound.
- Mosquitoes require water to breed.
- They live for up to a month.
- Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from several hundred feet away.
- The word mosquito comes from Spanish, meaning “little fly”
If you have any more tips or interesting facts about these irritating creatures, do let us know on our Facebook page – we’re itching to hear from you!