Myth-Busting Mosquitoes

A close-up look at a mosquito bite

Warm weather months means the return of pesky mosquitoes, which are seemingly determined to interrupt outdoor sporting events, backyard barbecues and quiet evenings on the porch. Preventing mosquito bites can be tricky, and dealing with the itch after being bitten is even more annoying. However, there’s proof some people are more susceptible to being bitten by the bothersome bugs than others. How much do you know about mosquitoes? Find out if some of these common myths are true from Nicole Baumann-Blackmore, MD, UnityPoint Health. 

Myth 1. Mosquitoes prefer a certain human blood type.

True. The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study observing the landing preference of the Aedes albopictus mosquito. From the study, when looking at blood types A, B, AB and O, the mosquitoes were more attracted to persons with type O blood, with type A blood being the next preferred blood type.

Dr. Baumann-Blackmore explains how it’s not just your blood type that lures mosquitoes your direction.

“Substances, such as ammonia and lactic acid, found in sweat are known to attract mosquitoes,” Dr. Baumann-Blackmore says. “People with higher body temperatures, due to genetics, exercise, fever or pregnancy, also attract them. Wearing black, dark blue or red clothing can also make you a mosquito magnet. One study even showed that mosquitoes are attracted to people who have been drinking beer – and this was independent of any of the above factors.”

Myth 2. All mosquito repellents are equally effective.

False. As the American Mosquito Control Association explains, mosquito repellents come in a variety of forms – sprays, creams, natural solutions, etc. While some prove useful, others lack in effectiveness. Mosquito repellents containing DEET remain the most recommended form of prevention.

“I recommend a product that contains 10-30 percent DEET. These repellents can be used on children ages 2 months and above. A product with 10 percent DEET provides protection for about two hours, while 30 percent products last up to five hours. Other repellents with the active ingredient picaridin are also effective, but regardless of which type of repellent you use, it’s a good idea to wash off once you come indoors,” Dr. Baumann-Blackmore says

Myth 3. If you scratch a mosquito bite enough, it will stop itching and heal faster.

False. Depending on how your body reacts to mosquito bites, scratching might seem like the only option. But, itching a mosquito bite actually can prolong the healing process.

“As hard as it can be, don’t itch them! Scratching mosquito bites just makes them itch more and increases the risk of developing a secondary skin infection. If you scratch too much and break the skin open, a bacterial skin infection can develop, which will require a visit to your primary care provider. Instead, apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to help take away the itch, as well as use an ice pack or soak in cold water.” Dr. Baumann-Blackmore says

Myth 4. Peak times for mosquitoes are just early morning and evening.

Not necessarily. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mosquitoes carrying different diseases are active at different times of the day.

Time of Day When Active
Diseases Carried by Mosquitoes
 From dawn to dusk (daylight hours)
- Dengue
- Yellow Fever
- Chikungunya
 From dusk to dawn (night hours)
- Malaria
- West Nile
- Japanese Encephalitis


Although exposure to mosquitoes may be higher at certain times, the best way to prevent mosquito bites is to always use repellent when outside for any length of time.

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