Indian population is probably more scared of mosquitoes than tigers these days. With Dengue & Chikungunya prevalent this season, a bite by a mosquito sends more danger signals in the minds. 

Not all the cases of these illnesses have to land in hospitals or prove to be fatal but the physical & mental agony of the patients & their family members is worth a consideration for all the preventive measures. 

Being a clinician for last 23 years, I have not seen this much concern reflecting on many faces when the diagnosis is disclosed in clinics. Leaving the treatment, waiting and watching for the danger signs is what is usually advised by good physicians but why not prevent if it can be prevented so effectively.

Let me rather tell you how to prevent the mosquito bites which is the only way we can shun the chances of these diseases.

How do mosquitoes find their victims?

In fact, the mosquitoes find their victims from as far as 40-50 meters through smell. The female mosquitoes are more interested in our blood that their male counterparts as they need iron & protein from our blood for producing new eggs. Their sensory organs are trained to find the sources of carbon dioxide & lactic acid because these chemicals give them the whereabouts of warm-blooded animals, like you and me. The larger is our body, the more is the amount of carbon dioxide & lactic acid produced by us & the more visible we are to mosquitoes. That is why we have more adults falling sick of Dengue & Chikungunya than children.

How do the mosquito repellents work?

It is not that mosquitoes hate the smell of the mosquito repellents which makes the repellents work. Rather,it is because the usual chemical put in repellants namely ‘DEET’ which is very effective at masking the smell of carbon dioxide and lactic acid. When we apply DEET, the mosquitoes can’t smell us and so they leave us alone. There are natural repellents such as geranium oil or citronella that work the same way,but they just don’t seem to be quite as effective as DEET.

How to repel mosquitoes naturally?

So, the question that arises now is, whether we can do something to manipulate something so that we become less appealing to mosquitoes? 

Is there scientific justification of the preventive measures to naturally repel mosquitoes? In fact, there is.

You might have probably noticed that certain people complain that they are bitten more by mosquitoes than others. Now that is also due to smell and not because the mosquitoes prefer certain blood-types, as people sometimes think.

Each one of us carry a unique smell, a type of aromatics unique identity code. There are around 400 different aromatic compounds which make up the human scent and about 30 out of them appear to have an effect which may help you hide yourself from the mosquitoes. If any of these 30 masking compounds happen to be prominent in your aromatic unique identity code, it tends to make us less visible to mosquitoes. One the other hand, the other compounds act as attractants, making some people not just visible to mosquitoes but favorite mosquito magnets. Around 10% of the population are mosquito magnets.

  • Have more garlic: Eating garlic can give us mild protection from mosquitoes, both from the odor in our breath as well as sulfur compounds that we emit through our skin. The smell of garlic is supposed to repel mosquitoes. So it might make sense to smell like an Italian restaurant full garlic recipes rather smelling like mosquito magnet. Applying or consuming more garlic during this season may help, although it probably may repel more than just mosquitoes. Eating has an added advantage of added protection, both from the odor on your breath as well as the sulfur compounds come out through your skin when you eat garlic.
  • Thiamine supplementation: Taking Thiamine (Vitamin B1) may discourage the mosquitoes from biting you. Consuming more of this water soluble vitamin makes you secrete this more through sweating & urination producing an odour which females mosquitoes seem to have a dislike for.
  • Be less active in hot & humid weather: Other ways to be less visible or less attractive to mosquitoes is not to indulge in TOO MUCH exertion when mosquitoes are around. When you exert, you emit more lactic acid & more carbon dioxide, which attracts them to you. So, this will be the one season when I’ll be advising you to be more home-bound or if you have to venture out, then do yourself a favour by wearing full sleeves light coloured clothing especially during the peak hours for mosquito bites which are early mornings & dusk time.

Stay safe & Live Life More!