Are some people more susceptible to mosquito bites than others?

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Updated: June 21, 2019

It’s inevitable. The warmer months hit, people begin to enjoy the great outdoors, and suddenly it seems like a certain segment of the population is itchier than ever thanks to those pesky mosquitoes.

If you think you’re more susceptible to the blood-thirsty insects than some of your hive-free friends, colleagues, or family members, you’re not imagining things. The scientific research revealing why some people are eaten alive while others walk away from a hike or a camping trip relatively unscathed is real. In fact, it’s estimated that roughly 20 percent of people are particularly attractive to these bugs.

Think you’re a tasty target? You might need Thermacell’s Zone Mosquito Repellent, a compact, portable device available in a variety of styles that look great on any patio or deck. It’s odourless, easy to use, and effective, giving you and your companions a 15-foot zone of mosquito protection without resorting to strong-smelling candles or sprays.

Your carbon dioxide output

Mosquitoes have receptors that naturally attract them to carbon dioxide and skin odour, which is how they target tasty humans. While everyone emits carbon dioxide, how much a person lets off depends on a variety of circumstances (pregnant women emit higher levels, for example). The unique blend of chemicals within a person’s CO2 emissions also comes into play—when humans exhale, they release lactic acid, uric acid, and other chemicals alongside CO2, which can all be particularly attractive to mosquitoes.  

Your resting metabolic rate

Certain factors like exercise, eating a heavy meal, and alcohol consumption affect your resting metabolic rate (which in turn affects CO2 emissions). So if you’re likely to go for a run in the morning and then enjoy a glass of wine or beer dockside by lunch or dinner, that could make you a prime target for a mosquito’s next meal.

Your cholesterol and stress levels

There are up to 400 chemical compounds on human skin that could attract or repel mosquitoes, but as it turns out, mosquitoes may have an additional chemical romance with your skin depending on your cholesterol levels. Those who metabolize cholesterol more quickly are actually more likely to be bitten because tasty cholesterol byproducts remain on the skin.  Meanwhile, those who are more stressed out could also be targeted since they secrete attractive steroid hormones.  

Your genetic makeup

Speaking of chemical compounds, the unique concoction any one person has is largely determined by genes. Those “cocktails” also happen to let off a unique smell, and some smells are just more attractive to the bugs when they’re seeking out their next blood meal. The moral of the story? Sometimes it really is your parents’ fault—at least if you’re particularly prone to mosquito bites.

Your blood type

If you were faced with a plate of golden fries or a bag of baby carrots, which one would you rather nibble on? Just like people will usually pick the fries, mosquitos are also looking for the most delicious food source. According to research, that means they’re more likely to pick someone with type O blood than type B, but they’re also only slightly more likely to chomp on people with type O over type A. If you don’t know your blood type and you seem to get bitten quite often, it may be a fun experiment to find out.   

Your body temperature

Research has shown that mosquitoes are more attracted to those with higher body temperatures. And while some people just “run hotter” than others, a variety of factors (like smoking, the number of calories you burn, eating spicy food, your age, and your sex) all factor into your overall body temperature.

The bacteria on your skin

It turns out that some of the naturally occurring bacteria on human skin is another mosquito magnet. Research shows that those with higher levels of specific bacteria species are more prone to bites, although interestingly, having a wider range of bacteria species actually makes skin less attractive to the insects. This research also explains why mosquitoes tend to congregate towards ankles and feet, where there’s typically a higher abundance of bacteria.

The colour of your clothing

Some researchers believe the colour of your clothing factors into whether you’re a prime mosquito target. While studies have been released both proving and refuting that claim, one argument is that the bugs are able to better detect dark clothing than light items, which means white apparel may be your best bet when it comes to repelling these pesky bugs. Now if only the colour didn’t dirty so easily.