Plus, tips from allergy experts about how to protect yourself from bites.

By Caroline Biggs
August 06, 2020
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There's no denying that mosquito bites are annoying—at their very best, their an itchy nuisance, but they can be far worse. "Some people have only a mild reaction to a bite," explains Dr. Morris Nejat of NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. "Other people react more strongly, and a large area of swelling, soreness, and redness can occur." However, a bad reaction to a mosquito bite doesn't necessarily mean you're allergic to them. "Most individuals are not allergic to mosquitoes," explains Dr. Amy Marks, an allergy and immunology physician at Beaumont Health. "When mosquitoes bite, the body's response to the saliva injected into the blood vessel creates an area of redness, swelling, and itching. It is very rare to have a severe allergic reaction to mosquitoes."

guests sitting at table for dinner party in field
Credit: Getty / The Good Brigade

To make matters worse, some people seem to be mosquito magnets, racking up bite after bite while those around them remain itch-free. While there's no way to determine how you'll react to a mosquito bite before you get one, both doctors say there are steps you can take to protect yourself from bites in the first place. We asked experts to share their advice and explain why mosquitoes seem to be more attracted to some people than others.

You're attracting mosquitoes with your scent.

If you're using heavily fragranced products before spending time outdoors, our experts say you're more likely to attract mosquitoes. "Mosquitoes are drawn to scented soaps, deodorants, perfumes, and lotions," Dr. Nejat explains. "Your best bet is to stick with unscented options, or skip them all together if possible." Additionally, Dr. Marks says that sweat and body odor also entice mosquitoes, so take care to shower, with unscented soap, prior to going outside.

You're wearing the wrong clothes.

Believe it or not, allergists say that wearing certain types of clothing can actually attract mosquitoes to you. "Mosquitoes are drawn to bright colored clothing, so avoid wearing bold or dark colors when spending time outdoors," Dr. Marks says. She also recommends wearing clothing that covers most of your skin to minimize the chance of getting bitten in the first place.

You're hanging out in the wrong areas.

Similar to their attraction to sweat, mosquitoes are drawn to moist environments, especially areas with stagnant bodies of water. "Damp atmospheres attract mosquitoes and other insects, so avoid standing water," Dr. Nejat says. Dr. Marks agrees, adding that it's also important to stay away from shaded outdoor areas during periods of high humidity, since mosquitoes prefer to fly around in muggy settings. "If you experience more intense reactions to mosquitoes, you might want to bypass being outdoors from dusk to dawn, during peak mosquito times," she adds.

 You're not wearing repellent.

If you aren't wearing some kind of mosquito repellent when you go outdoors, you're at the mercy of these pests. "It's important to apply repellent frequently when you are outside," Dr. Nejat explains. In addition to CDC-approved insect repellents including DEET or natural alternatives, such as oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin, Dr. Marks says you can light citronella candles when you're outside to repel mosquitoes; they dislike the scent.

Your body temperature is too high.

Mosquitoes are attracted to heat and exhaled breath, which means the higher your body temperature, the more likely you are to get bitten. Almost everyone is equal in this sense—until you add alcohol, that is. "Lifestyle factors play a role," explains Kari Warberg Block, a pest control expert and founder of EarthKind. "Alcohol consumption raises body temperature and metabolic rate, which means higher levels of CO2 are emitted."

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