Why you’re a mosquito magnet
Your genes might be to blame for all those mosquito bites, new research suggests.
A study found that the way people smell, which is influenced by genetics, determines if mosquitoes find them attractive. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at the way mosquitoes responded to identical and fraternal twins to help them best determine their results.
They found that mosquitoes had similar levels of attractiveness to genetically identical twins. However, fraternal twins, which don’t share the same genetic make-up, had different levels of attractiveness from mosquitoes.
“If we understand the genetic basis for variation between individuals, it could be possible to develop [made-to-order] ways to control mosquitoes better, and develop new ways to repel them,” said Dr. James Logan, senior study author, in a news release. “In the future we may even be able to take a pill which will enhance the production of natural repellents by the body and ultimately replace skin lotions.”
While a pill to prevent mosquito bites is not a reality today, Dr. Tony Hampton, family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago, recommends taking the following steps to keep mosquitoes away:
- Make sure exposed skin is protected by using insect repellant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Wear long-sleeve shirts, pants and socks while outdoors. If you spray permethrin on your clothing, it can help provide additional protection through several washes.
- Avoid being outdoors during times when mosquitos are active, which includes dusk and dawn.
If you do get attacked by mosquitoes, start treating the bites by washing the affected area with soap and water, and ice the area to reduce swelling and pain.
“The affected area may then be treated with topical anti-itch cream like calamine lotion or cortisone cream,” says Dr. Hampton. “If pain exists, consider using acetaminophen or ibuprofen. More serious reactions may need treatment with oral antihistamines, oral steroids, or an epinephrine auto injector for anaphylaxis.”
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