Mosquitoes have been around for 170 million years with more than 175 known species nationwide and 3500 species worldwide. Mosquitoes have been biting humans for thousands of years, and for almost that long people have been trying to protect themselves and ward them off. The swarm of mosquitos have arrived earlier than expected this year and the battle seems to be never ending.
After a mild winter season in 2012-2013 in the US, mosquito season has arrived so early this year that experts are certain that this season is one of the worst in years. During the mild winters there are no repeated freezes. These repeated freezing temperatures are necessary to contain the mosquito’s breeding potential.
If the breeding of the mosquitos are allowed to continue throughout the entire winter, we are in trouble. Most are aware that mosquitos are attracted to our blood and when we talk about blood, you cannot dismiss the possibility of blood borne pathogens.
The fact is that these mosquitos are vectors or transporters of these pathogens. In 2012, the CDC reported 610 total cases of encephalitis and meningitis directly from mosquitos. A documented 47 deaths from mosquitos alone in that year. Sometimes we seem to forget about other diseases transported by mosquitos like Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and even Malaria. The proper knowledge regarding these insects is the just the beginning of protection.
Scientists have produced recent research proving that genetics accounts for an unbelievable 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. They have also identified certain key elements in our body chemistry that, when found in excess on the skin’s surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer.
People with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skins surface will attract more mosquitoes. Mosquitoes also target people who produce excess amounts of certain acids on the skin. Acids, like uric acid or lactic acid can be found in small traces on the skin.
Uric acid production is associated with gout while lactic acid is associated with the by-products of anaerobic muscle metabolism or exercise. Believe it or not, just breathing has something to do with the amount of mosquitos that are attracted to you! The amount to carbon dioxide you produce upon exhalation has a direct effect on how attractive you are to mosquitos.
We should all know by now, from physiology 101, that human organisms breathe Oxygen (O2) in and expel Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide than others as do children and mosquitos just love CO2. This is why, mosquitoes typically prefer feeding on heavier adults and smaller children. Both populations simply expel more CO2, making them primary targets.
Pregnant women are also at increased risk, as they produce an increased amount of exhaled carbon dioxide. These women are obviously providing for two thus an augmented amount of CO2 produced. Everybody must protect themselves or at least, be conscious of mosquitos not just the populations above. There are far more reasons why the mosquitos want to munch on you besides CO2.
For instance, body movement attracts mosquitos. So don’t sit there for 20 minutes trying to swat the mosquitos away unless you’re a good shot. Within that twenty minutes, you not only got your one mosquito aroused, you attracted their friends. Moreover, body heat contributes to the bites you find. Even a rise in of a degree is enough to be on the mosquito’s radar.
It is well understood that when you begin to perform any exercise routine your body heat increases. When this happens while exercising or being active outdoors, a combination of sequences are set in motion. Movement, body heat, lactic acid production just setting the stage for an attack by our little friends.
Over the 15 years of travelling, working and interacting with medical, military and world class athletes from around the world, I have elucidated many tricks that work in repelling those pesky mosquitos. Below are some organic and non-organic methods of mosquito repellant.
Many have been corroborated by interviews with the Military personnel, Olympians and Physicians who specialize in Travel Medicine. Others were tried and tested by me. One interesting fact is that I heard along my travels is that the military has been using clothing infused with the chemical insecticide called Permethrin.
Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide usually contained in a product called Nix or Lyclear. The Military has been using this for years and soon other manufactures will take it mainstream. They will not just be for our troops or clothing for the outdoor enthusiasts but will be marketed to us.
Here is a list of Fifth Avenue’s Mosquito Repellent Menu
*Fabric Softener Sheets – Some believe that Bounce or any other type of dryer sheets keep mosquitos away and it is true. It might have something to do with the linalool or beta-citronellal present in those sheets. Both derived from the same chemical base as in common citronella based candles. Either rub it on your skin or keep them on you, meaning put them in your pocket, handbag or even under a plate if on a picnic. Once those mosquitos smell that dryer sheet, they fly away.
Basil – The stronger the aroma, the better. So try Peruvian or Greek basil they are more pungent but all basil is known to repel mosquitos. Simply keep them around the yard and if necessary, keep a few leaves around the table or in a potpourri. You’ll see, the mosquitos will not come by anymore.
Rosemary – Just like basil, rosemary is an extremely effective outdoor mosquito deterrent. Keep a few pots of them around the yard or on a kitchen shelf. Some sprigs can be strategically placed around the house similar to basil, while many hikers actually chew on rosemary making their exhaled CO2 unappealing to mosquitos.
*Catnip – Yes Catnip. Nepeta Cataria, the genus and species name commonly known as catnip, catmint or catswort is a natural mosquito and green fly repellent. It is known to be 10 times more effective than DEET. Simply put some catnip in a small breathable pouch which seems to work perfectly. Make a few small sachets of them but add some lavender for good measure and I am sure it will work for you. Keep some in your outdoor pack, in your beach bag or mixed lightly into a potpourri.
*Picaridin – Picaridin-based repellents have been available in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Asia for many years, and were introduced into the U.S. market in 2005. Some products containing Picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Cutter Advanced Sport and Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus with Picardin. Furthermore, Picaridin was tested in lab and military field studies and found to be effective against biting flies and ticks.
IR3535 – This is the active ingredient in the Avon Corporations, Skin-So-Soft. USDA laboratories found that a 25% solution of IR3535 was 10-100 times less effective than DEET. Some Marines I have spoken with swear by Skin So Soft while on duty in the world’s jungles. For some reason, I tried Skin So Soft on a surf trip to Costa Rica and still got attacked by mosquitos as big as my thumb! Did not work the best for me.
*Apple Cider Vinegar – you can start by taking a cotton ball dipping it in the vinegar and wipe all over exposed skin. It is the extreme pungent odor of the vinegar that keeps the mosquitos away. Great for camping or even being on the water. I have personally used this method and it worked like a charm, not one bite.
Eucalyptus (Repel) – The oil extracted from either the Lemon Eucalyptus or Eucalyptus Citriodora plant both native to Austrailia has an active ingredient called PMD (para-menthane-3,8-diol). It was introduced to the United States in 2002. PMD may provide up to six hours of mosquito protection and is said to have a pleasant menthol type smell.
B1 (Thiamin), Don’t Bite Me – It is purported that ingesting or rubbing B1 into your skin can prevent bites. A study done in the 1960s, showed that B1 produces a skin odor that female mosquitoes don’t like. No other studies have consistently confirmed Thiamine’s effectiveness as a mosquito repellent when either made into a paste with baking soda or by ingesting 300-500 mg/day. This method does work for some people but never worked for me or any of the athletes I work with.
Citronella – Like most grasses, citronella plants are easy to maintain and does work quite well against mosquitos. These days there are candles, sprays and oils that are all somewhat effective in keeping mosquitos at bey. The clumping grass of Citronella can mask many other scents literally camouflaging us from the mosquitos.
Garlic – As far as I know, there is no scientific proof that eating garlic works but mosquitos hate the garlic plant. Having them in the yard may not be such a bad idea but as for the amount one needs to consume for its benefits is still to be determined.
*X marks the spot – Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you to make an “X” on the bite with your finger nail. Believe it or not, this does somewhat work. Making of an “X” makes divots in the skins which helps disperses the proteins secreted and ultimately stops the itch for a while. It won’t cure the bite indefinitely but does ease the itch. Remember, don’t choose anti-itching topicals with a steroid. As stated above, It will only attract more mosquito’s.
*Deet – Deet is the most widely used protectant against mosquitos. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against using insect repellents with more than 10 percent DEET on little children (under age 3). Over exposure to Deet has produced reports of headaches, behavioral changes, disorientation and seizures. This demonstrates its ability to be toxic but if used correctly, Deet may be the best thing you can use against theses flying blood suckers.
Bite Blocker – contains soybean, coconut and geranium oils. In a Canadian study, Bite Blocker repelled mosquitoes better than citronella. Furthermore, Geranium has been known to be a great mosquito repellant.
Avon’s Skin So Soft Original –NOT- the Bug Guard Version – A very popular product but in clinical trials it did not stand up as well as other products. Avon claims it is a bath oil not an insect repellent albeit some of use it for this.
*Vanilla – This one I like a lot. Simply buy vanilla oil or vanilla extract from a health food store or your local market and apply it directly to exposed skin. The mosquitos will avoid the vanilla and may make you smell good too. Many women are fond of this method for that reason. I actually keep a small tincture of it in my Athletic Trainer’s Kit.
*Vicks Vapo Rub – Some of the Olympic sailors from Europe told me about this one and sure enough, the mosquito don’t want to go near you after it’s applied. Some believe it can be used both to protect you against mosquitos and help relieve itching
Some medical professionals say that mosquitos are some of the most dangerous insects on earth. A bite from a mosquito can mean much more than just a bit if itching. One can experience a severe allergic reaction while others may receive any of the mosquito-transmitted illnesses.
We all must be concerned. Worldwide, about 3.3 billion people are at risk of Malaria. The 1999 West Nile Virus outbreak in NYC, and then ten years later outbreaks of Dengue fever started popping up on the east coast. Anybody who is outside for extended lengths of time should not only be aware of the potential seriousness of a mosquito bite but should remember to audit their body for bites all the time.
For many years to come, the best mosquito repellents will continuously be debated and discussed. Native Americans are said to have used rancid bear grease to ward off the mosquitos. At Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau tried a potion containing camphor, turpentine and some of mint oil.
The one major thing I have learned is that no single method will help everyone. The ones I have starred (*) are tried and true. As people try to protect and maintain public health and awareness, knowing which species, even which strains, of mosquitoes will become important in combating mosquitos in the future.
Just remember, mosquitoes are active at dawn and dusk, and breed near sitting bodies of water and many mosquitoes use vision to locate hosts from afar. Dark clothes and foliage can protect you but you must use some of the tips that are listed above. Once you find what works for you, the bites will reduce to almost nothing.
About Fifth Avenue
Fifth Avenue Physical Therapy and Wellness was created at the onset of the new millennium in order to bridge the gap between strength and conditioning and rehabilitation. We have 2 clinics in New York (Grand Central & The Hamptons) and provide care to everyone at a level that Olympic athletes receive. The services we offer are physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga, massage and more.
If you’re looking to build yourself up as an athlete, why not take personal training from us? Where better to train than a place that has built up professional athletes to the highest degree.
If you’re in pain and need help or looking for a service we can provide for you and you’re in New York, then please contact us on 212-529-5700. Or you can fill in your details on our contact page and we will get back to you.