It’s summertime and you know what that means: the dreaded mosquitoes are out to play.
If you’ve ever wondered why it seems like you’re the only person at the outdoor party getting bit by the pesky creatures, you’re not alone.
A study published in the journal Cell in October 2022 found that people with higher levels of carboxylic acids — a type of fatty acid — on their skin are more attractive to mosquitoes.
“The researchers had participants wear fashion-forward nylon stockings on their arms to collect their sebum and then set up a chamber where aedes aegypti (yellow fever) mosquitoes could choose between differently scented nylons,” noted the Reactions series host, Dr. Alex Dainis, who earned a PhD in genetics from Stanford University.
“And the choice was strong,” Dainis continued. “Those of us who are mosquito magnets, we really, truly are magnetic to them because they chose our scent way more than others.”
Dainis explained that the study considered the differences between “strong attractors” — people who tend to get bitten more — and “weak attractors,” people who don’t feel their wrath nearly as much.
“Researchers found that there were several different carboxylic acids that showed up more on the skin of strong attractors than the weak attractors,” she said. “Specifically, the strong attractors produced significantly higher levels of three carboxylic acids.”
The three carboxylic acids are pentadecanoic, heptadecanoic and nonadecanoic acids.
Ten other unidentified compounds in the same class of chemicals were identified on the skin of strong attractors as well.
According to Science Direct, pentadecanoic and heptadecanoic acid levels are tied to intake of dairy fat.
Nonadecanoic acid, meanwhile, is a fatty acid commonly found in fat and vegetable oils, per Cayman Chemical.
Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, a Mississippi-based dermatologist, seconded Dainis’ points, telling The Post, “The type and volume of a particular bacteria on the skin can increase the chance of mosquito bites.”
She referenced a study published in December 2011 in the journal PLOS ONE.
“One study found that those individuals who were more attractive to the mosquitoes had a significantly higher abundance of a particular bacteria, but lower diversity of bacteria overall, on their skin,” Zubritsky, who goes by @dermguru on TikTok, noted to The Post on Tuesday.
The American Chemical Society video also includes information from a study published in May in the journal Current Biology.
This research found butyric, isobutyric and isovaleric acids are among the most mosquito-friendly acids.
Dainis pointed out that one study participant’s body odor was found to have a large amount of eucalyptol — a main component of the commonly-known eucalyptus oil — which made them unattractive to mosquitoes.
Foods like rosemary, sage, cardamom and sweet basil contain eucalyptol, according to the Telegraph. The ingredient is also present in certain kinds of toothpastes and mouthwash.
“This is just one person, so it’s just a hypothesis, but could eucalyptol in diets help keep mosquitoes away? Maybe,” Dainis mused.
In addition to skin scents, there are a handful of other reasons why some people are more likely to get the itchy bites than others.
“Those who exercise more frequently, for example, produce more sweat, which contains things like lactic and uric acid, which is more attractive to the mosquitoes,” Zubritsky told The Post. “It also depends on one’s skin microbiome — some people have different types or levels of bacteria on the skin, which can attract more mosquitoes.”
She continued, “Mosquitoes are also attracted to carbon dioxide, so those who expel more air and breathe harder (think those who have a larger BMI) are at risk. Other risk factors include pregnancy, genetics, and blood type (Type O is more likely to attract bites).”
Sometimes mosquito bites are simply unavoidable, but the good news is there are a few things in your control.
Zubritsky recommends wearing a bug repellent that contains 20% to 30% DEET or picaridin.
She suggests covering exposed areas with long sleeves and pants — tucking in your shirt also provides extra protection.
If the mosquitoes still manage to find you this summer, the dermatologist advises quick fixes to help ease that itch.
“For bug bites, I find the most effective treatment is an over-the-counter topical steroid like hydrocortisone or taking an oral antihistamine such as Zyrtec, Benadryl, or Claritin,” Zubritsky told The Post.
This article was originally published on New York Post: Lifestyle