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I’m a Mosquito Magnet – Am I Normal?

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I’m a Mosquito Magnet – Am I Normal?

Oct 08, 2015
Every time you spend some time outside you end up covered in mosquito bites. Why do they bite you more than anyone else? It turns out about one in five people seem to have this problem. In this podcast Dr. Kirtly Jones talks about what attracts mosquitos, from your blood type to what you wear.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: You step outside for 30 seconds, you come in and your body is covered with mosquito bites. Is this normal? We'll find out next on The Scope.

Announcer: Questions every woman wonders about her health, body, and mind. This is "Am I Normal?" on The Scope.

Interviewer: We're talking to Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones. She is the expert in all things woman, and she is going to tell me why my mom, when she steps outside, is a mosquito magnet, but I'm totally fine. I'm assuming it has to do with blood type.

Dr. Jones: Well, it's a complicated question, but let's get to the normal part.

Interviewer: Yes, is this normal?

Dr. Jones: Remember, we've decided in medicine that something that happens to less than 5% of the population is not normal so if it's something that happens to more than 5% of the population is normal. Twenty percent of people, one out of five, are mosquito magnets so we're normal.

Interviewer: So we're normal people. So I'm not normal, then.

Dr. Jones: No, you're part of the 80% so it's normal to be a mosquito magnet and to not be a mosquito magnet. Now, I am a mosquito magnet and it ticks me off. Here are some of the things that mosquitos like. First of all, mosquitos can find you from 160 feet away. They can find you by the carbon dioxide that you emit. People who emit more carbon dioxide, people who are exercising and pregnant women, those are the triggers for mosquitos to come and find you. So more carbon dioxide can attract mosquitos.

Now, people who are mosquito magnets can just be sitting there and not breathing too much, drinking beer . . . guys drink beer, they sit outside, they get mosquito bites. It turns out that mosquitos would prefer somebody who drank beer because they must be smelling the beer.

Interviewer: That's so interesting to me.

Dr. Jones: You know how you can smell beer on a guy.

Interviewer: Yeah, okay.

Dr. Jones: Also, we do know that people who are O blood type. So, how mosquitos can tell O blood types from other blood types, but O blood types are more likely to get mosquito bites. There are some other things too that people are looking into. Now, this is big business. You can bet that the Off people, the people who make mosquito repellant, are very interested in trying to figure out why some people get bitten and some people don't and coming up with some answers with what we might put on ourselves.

It's important to know that mosquitos like some colors too. They are more attracted to dark colors or bright colors.

Interviewer: Oh, like skin? Are you talking about skin color?

Dr. Jones: Well, skin color, but colors that you wear. Remember, they're seeing you from 100 feet away. They say, "There's red," or, "There's black," or, "There's blue; let's go over there." If you're covered in white, they're less likely to bite you. So we don't know all the answers that make people into mosquito magnets, and there probably are hormones or steroids or scents that we don't know about yet, but one in five people get more bites than others.

Now, getting a bite is also a function of how you respond to it. Some people get a bite and it's a tiny, little round thing, and some people get a bite and it's a great, big welt. It could be that the people with the little, tiny round thing are getting as many bites, but they don't have the same kind of immune response to the bite.

Interviewer: So it's not so much the mosquito bite, it's how you react to it.

Dr. Jones: Right. Remember, the mosquito is doing this really cool thing. First of all, there are only girl mosquitos. Only girl mosquitos do the biting because they need a blood meal for their eggs. Mosquitos insert a little chemical that makes blood flow more easily, but that chemical causes a little irritation. They want to put in a little anticoagulant so they can suck your blood, but sometimes there's an immune response to that. Some people have a bigger response than others.

So yes, you are normal if you're a mosquito magnet. I'm glad to say, as a mosquito magnet that I'm normal, but I'm ticked off. Is it my blood type? No, I'm type A. Is it my exercise? No, I don't exercise that much, just enough, and it's usually inside. Is it my beer? I don't drink beer. Is it my perfume? It could be, but I get it when I'm coming out of the lake. So I'm not exactly sure why, but I do know what to do about it. And that is I cover up in light clothing. If I'm in an area where West Nile fever is a big deal, I might use DEET, but normally I usually just cover up. There are many new products on the market to help people, which aren't DEET, decrease the chance of getting bitten. So, for the one in five of you listening who is a mosquito magnet, so sorry for you. Wear white and cover up.

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