Mosquito bites

grey Mosquito bitesAlmost everyone in the world can recognise that high pitched phantom in the night. At best, a mosquito bite will cause local irritation, maybe some swelling over a few days. At worst, a bite can transmit serious illness and land you in hospital fighting for your life. Illnesses such as Yellow Fever, Malaria, Dengue Fever and Ross River Virus are all spread by this humble insect. Thankfully studies have shown that the transmission of HIV via mosquito bites is extremely unlikely.

With the exception of Antarctica, mosquitos live in every part of the world. They even survive in the Arctic where they are active for a few weeks a year when water melts to form pools on the permafrost.

Even the most determined nature lover will curse these annoying demons whose only reason for living is to feed fish whilst in their laval stages. So how do you avoid getting bitten?

“Know thine enemy”

Move

  • Mosquitos can only fly at around 2kms an hour so a gentle breeze (or a quick run around) will waft them away.
  • If walking with friends, go first. The cumulative attraction of a group is noticed more at the back.
  • Go gently. Mosquitos are strongly attracted by carbon dioxide on your breath and lactic acid on your skin. The less you exert yourself the less attractive you’ll be (The same rule applies in gyms!)
  • Try to go in sunny areas and avoid damp, shady spots as Mosquitos dehydrate easily.
  • Mosquitos take a few seconds to bite after landing. Developing a twitch when sitting still will keep them from biting.

Cover yourself

  • Originally developed as a pesticide in 1946, DEET oil is the active ingredient in many insect repellents. Mosquitos find the smell of DEET repulsive even if we are sweating copiously and smelling like a banquet. *Warning* DEET can be irritant in high concentrations and it melts certain plastics. DEET also stings like hell on cuts. It is safest to only spray onto clothes and vulnerable areas such as areas with high blood flow and less fat like the neck, wrists and ankles.
  • Loose fitting, long sleeved shirts and trousers may mask your tasty odour and confound mosquitos’ feeding efforts as you move.
  • Earthy colours attract less attention than bright reds and blues which look like the flowering plants that mosquitos also feed on.
  • Some companies make Permethrin impregnating kits to turn your mosquito nets and clothing into serious bug killing gear. You can check them out here.
  • If you can handle the smell, dry your clothes over a fire as mosquitos hate smoke.
  • Mosquitos are paranoid about getting their wings oily so lube up your skin with natural oils such as crushed orange peel, onion or garlic.
  • Avoid smelling like a flower. Scented laundry powder and personal hygiene products will attract mosquitos.
  • If all else fails you can do a Bear Grylls and roll in mud, this will mask your attractive odour.

Camping

  • As mentioned previously mosquitos hate smoke so build a fire with green wood and ferns then bathe in the smoke (if fires are allowed where you are camping).
  • If there are only a few mosquitos around hide in your tent for half an hour and leave your friends outside. The mosquito population will soon be full. *Warning, best not to tell your mates why you are hiding in your tent*
  • Mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk so chill out in your tent until it is totally dark before coming out to roast your marshmallows.

Diet

  • Dehydration may magnify our reaction to bites so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Eat raw garlic, the essence laces your breath and will repel the mosquitos…it also repels the opposite sex so weigh up the risk versus benefit of this option.
  • While there is no solid scientific evidence to prove efficacy, many people believe that large doses of Vitamin B1 works to repel mosquitos.
  • Stimulants and sugar rev up the metabolism which sends out a loud invitation to mosquitos, best avoided.

If bitten

The anticoagulant in mosquito saliva sets off an allergic reaction that causes swelling and itching. Once bitten, the sooner you gulp down an antihistamine tablet the better they can work to block this allergy.

  • Older fashioned sedating antihistamines (such as Polaramine and Phenergan) are best for mosquito bites as they have a separate anti-itch property on top of their allergy blocking abilities.
  • I find that pushing my fingernail firmly into a bite stops itching longer than just scratching does, this also stops the risk of opening up a bite to infection.
  • Scratch around the bite but not directly on it.
  • Cold compresses reduce the swelling and relieve itching.
  • Antihistamine creams work really well to give relief from bites. Promethazine cream works wonders but has been taken off the Australian market…if anyone wants to smuggle me some in that would be awesome!
  • If desperate, applying cortisone cream will reduce the swelling of all but the worst bites.
There you are my best hints on avoiding these nasty little buggers. Next time you see me sitting in the sun next to a smoky fire twitching and eating raw garlic you know that I have not gone completely loco…

*Random Fact* Despite mosquitos being much lighter than water droplets they can fly in the rain. Mosquitos are too small to break the surface tension of water so if they get hit in flight they are just slightly diverted before continuing, awesome video here

 

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