Dengue and other mosquito-borne illnesses are rampant during the rainy season, but in recent years, the number of cases has soared year-round. In 2018, 38,000 cases with 195 deaths were recorded from January to May, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
“Dati sa Pilipinas, season ang occurrence ng dengue. Tag-ulan at tag-baha, doon lang ang rise in cases. Now, all year round meron tayong dengue,” said pediatrician Dr. Carmina Delos Reyes, an infectious disease specialist and a fellow of the Philippine Pediatric Society,
While parents are vigilant about preventing the disease (read up on ways here), you might have wondered why your child is seemingly prone to more insect bites than her playmates. As it turns out, mosquitoes do get attracted to a certain type. Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida, USA, calls them “high-attractor types” in an interview with NBC News.
Here are possible reasons mosquitoes are more likely to bite your kids than others:
1. Your child has been exercising or running around.
According to WebMD, certain elements of our body chemistry, when produced in excess, make mosquitoes come closer. One of those are acids like lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia, and other substances, which are expelled via a person’s sweat. Increased movement also leads to sweat buildup, which again, makes your child more “appealing” to insects.
Mosquitoes are highly visual, especially later in the afternoon, says Day. If your child has been playing outside throughout the afternoon, her lactic acid and body temperature goes up, making her more attractive to mosquitoes. According to Day, body temperature, or warmth, is also a factor, which is why mosquitoes get attracted to pregnant women — they are warmer in temperature than others.
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2. Your child is breathing hard.
One of the ways mosquitoes locate their targets is by smelling carbon dioxide coming from their breath — they can sense it from more than 50 meters away, says John Edman, Ph.D., an entomologist and spokesman for the Entomological Society of America. Larger people exhale more, which is why adults are more likely to be bitten than mosquitoes over small children.
However, when combined with sweat, body heat, and excessive panting, your children become more susceptible to mosquitoes especially if they’re exhausted.
In a 2011 study published in PLOS One, scientists found that mosquitoes are enticed by large amounts of bacteria on the skin, which can create a distinct fragrance. Our feet, in particular, are a rich source of bacteria, which might be why mosquitoes are prone to bite our ankles and feet.
In addition, the American Mosquito Control Association says that mosquitoes love the smell of Limburger cheese, which is similar to smelly feet. According to The Spruce, test results by scientists also show that combining carbon dioxide with smelly socks “increases the attraction of many common species of disease-transmitting mosquitoes.”
According to Day, a mosquito first searches for humans through vision. People dressed in darker colors like black, navy blue, or red stand out. The DOH recommends self-protection by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants in light colors. It’s part of its ‘4S’ strategy: search and destroy mosquito breeding places, secure self-protection, seek early consultation, and support fogging/spraying only in hotspot areas.
5. Your child belongs to a certain blood type.
Mosquito bites are exclusive to female mosquitoes, which harvest proteins from our blood necessary for developing their eggs. So, is it possible that they are attracted to certain blood types more than others.
A small study in 2004 found that in a controlled setting, mosquitoes landed on people who were Type O nearly twice as often as those who were Type A. Those with Type B blood fell in the middle.
Keep in mind, though, that more research is needed to prove this theory. Just the same, you might want to be extra cautious and apply insect repellent to your babies during dengue season, no matter their blood type. (Read about effective lotions and creams here.)
Whether your child is more prone to insect bites or not, it’s important that you use preventive measures to ensure that she is safe from mosquito-borne illnesses. Apart from the right clothing, mosquito repellents with DEET, picaridin, IR 3535, and lemon eucalyptus oil are all proven safe and effective.