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Allergies Health Center

Are You a Mosquito Magnet?

Experts try to crack the code behind why mosquitoes like some people more than others. Plus, tips on keeping mosquitoes at bay and the best mosquito repellents.
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Who Mosquitoes Like Best continued...

"Any type of carbon dioxide is attractive, even over a long distance," Conlon says. Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide, which is why mosquitoes typically prefer munching on adults to small children. Pregnant women are also at increased risk, as they produce a greater-than-normal amount of exhaled carbon dioxide. Movement and heat also attract mosquitoes.

So if you want to avoid an onslaught of mosquito bites at your next outdoor gathering, stake out a chaise lounge rather than a spot on the volleyball team. Here's why. As you run around the volleyball court, the mosquitoes sense your movement and head toward you. When you pant from exertion, the smell of carbon dioxide from your heavy breathing draws them closer. So does the lactic acid from your sweat glands. And then -- gotcha.

With a long track record -- mosquitoes have been around for 170 million years -- and more than 175 known species in the U.S., these shrewd summertime pests clearly aren't going to disappear any time soon. But you can minimize their impact.

Keeping the Bite at Bay: Chemical-Based Mosquito Repellents

Plenty of mosquito repellents line the shelves of drugstores and supermarkets each summer, but they're not all created equally.The majority of available mosquito repellents derive their effectiveness from chemicals. Protecting the public from mosquitoes since 1957, DEET continues to be the chemical of choice used in repellents. In repeated studies, it's been proven the most effective chemical repellent on the market. Repellents with 23.8% DEET (most formulas contain between 10% and 30%) protect wearers for about five hours, according to a study led by Mark Fradin, PhD, a researcher with Chapel Hill Dermatology.

Just how safe is it to coat yourself in DEET to keep from getting bitten by mosquitoes? "[DEET] has been in use for over 40 years and has a remarkable safety record. Only few hospitalizations have been reported, mainly due to gross overuse," Conlon tells WebMD. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that low concentrations of DEET (10% or less) are safe to use on infants over 2 months old.

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