It’s barbecue season, which means getting outdoors and enjoying al fresco dining with friends – but you’re not the only one readying yourself for an outdoor feast.
Mosquitoes are rife in hot weather and can turn a pleasant evening into an unbearable night of itching and scratching, thanks to the red welts their bites can produce.
It is true that some people are more susceptible to bites than others, and experts say we have little control over whether we’re a tasty snack for a mosquito.
LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura says: “Studies have shown that mosquitoes are more attracted to certain chemicals – such as lactic acid – and so people that naturally emit more of these chemicals from their skin than others are more likely to attract mosquito bites.
“There is also evidence that shows that those in the ‘O’ blood group are twice as likely to attract mosquitoes than those in the ‘A’ blood group.”
Whatever your genetics, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting bitten. Here are a few tips to try on World Mosquito Day…
1. Apply DEET before you go outdoors
“Insect repellents like DEET can go a very long way to avoiding mosquito bites,” says science professor and entomologist Adam Hart.
Repellents containing 50% DEET (known as N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide), when applied to skin or clothing, help ward off a number of biting insects. Always follow the instructions on the product.
2. Try essential oils
“Insects such as mosquitoes don’t tend to like citrus smells,” says naturopath Ben Brown. “So if you’re spending time outdoors, lemon, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil or lemongrass oil on the skin can help to deter them.”
If you don’t fancy applying essential oils to your skin, you could burn them around the area where you’re sitting instead.
3. Cover up
“Mosquitoes look for CO2 as their food source, which can be bad news for us after we exercise, drink alcohol or eat spicy food, as we tend to release more CO2,” says Dr Luke Powles, lead GP at Bupa.
“To avoid being nature’s feast, make sure you cover up after a workout or if you’re enjoying some food in a pub garden.”
4. Time your day
Mosquitoes tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, when the breeze is calmer.
If you can, try to avoid sitting outdoors during these times of the day, as this is when you’re most likely to get bitten.
5. Avoid stagnant water
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant, standing water, which makes pools, birdbaths, gutters and empty plant pots the perfect place for them to multiply.
Ahead of your next al fresco event, take a good look around your garden and pour away any pots or buckets collecting rainwater. This will go some way to avoid mosquitoes congregating around your home.
6. Cut down on outdoor exercise
“Our bodies produce more lactic acid when we exercise, so you might find yourself getting bitten more often when you’re working out,” says Kaura.
If you really want to avoid being riddled with red welts during the warmer months, try taking your workouts indoors.
It’s also better to wear loose clothing rather than tight, breathable gym gear – which mosquitoes can often penetrate.