Mosquitoes are one of theworst ”pains in the neck” in the summer. The most disturbing noise is surely their “bzzzz” at night. In this blog, we’ll explain why the mosquito bites, why the bites itch and what we should use to get rid of the annoying and itchy mosquito bites.
Firstly something about mosquitoes!
There are nearly 3,500 different types of mosquitoes. When we say that we have been bitten by a mosquito, in most cases it’s by a female. Females are usually the ones that suck the blood of mammals. Women are drama queens, again :). Males are mostly fed with nectar only. The mosquitoes feed themselves from early dusk until the sunset.
Mosquitoes can be carriers of various diseases, most known to everyone is certainly malaria. The mosquitoes also carry dengue fever and yellow fever. Mosquitoes manage to transmit a disease to more than 700 million inhabitants per year. Only malaria kills 3 million people a year. It is true that tropical and subtropical areas are more exposed and the possibility of disease is greater, but this does not mean that Europeans are immune.
They are a new species in Europe that originally came from Southeast Asia. It was first detected in Europe in 2006. It is mostly found near water and is really problematic.
Why are mosquito bites itchy?
We don’t notice the mosquito bite immediately, but only after a few minutes/hours. So, it’s not the mosquito bite that itches, but the immune reaction that follows the bite. Before the mosquito gets to the blood, it releases its saliva into the body. Substances in saliva prevent blood clotting during the sucking (anticoagulants), making their work much easier. Saliva also contains substances that are very immunogenic. Our body responds to these substances by making antibodies.
There are various types of immune responses. The reaction is carried out in a way that nothing happens at the first contact with the matter (first mosquito bite). At the first bite, the body is sensitized and memory cells are formed. But when have we ever gotten away with a single bite? When a mosquito bites us the next time, our body has already prepared memorial cells that then migrate to the point of the sting. At each subsequent sting, the immune response is faster.
Myth: ”Mosquitoes bite me because I have sweet blood”
The mosquitoes are said to more often sting younger people with hot skin and a strong body smell (not necessarily odor). They’ll love you even more due to the increased CO2 concentrations or in case you are wearing dark clothes or glitters.
How do get rid of mosquitoes with synthetic repellents?
N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide is a commercial ingredient used in repellents and it’s very effective. It is used for repellent activity against mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and other insects. According to studies, it irritates the skin.
How does it work?
There are 3 hypothesis, but in every case, it masks the scent and, consequently, the insects do not detect a person. DEET can only mask the smell that mosquitoes does not recognize or it changes to confuse the mosquito, and consequently, the mosquito does not recognize us as a host and will not sting.
Some repellents up for sale also contain up to 45 % DEET, which is an enormous amount and that can irritate the skin a lot.
A well-known synthetic repellent is also icardin, which also works against many types of insects. They are said to be less aggressive. Icardin is used in repellents up to 20 %.
Natural ingredients with repellent activity
Since the synthetic ingredients in repellents are unfriendly both for the ecosystem and for us, they have been looking for alternatives for repellent action in nature.
Essential oils of the camphor tree
The essential oil of camphor tree has proven to have a repellent effect. It also acts insecticidal, antifungal, antibacterial and as an antioxidant. Terpenoids and phenylpropanoids, found in leaves and bark, additionally contribute to the bioactivity of the camphor tree.
Is considered to be a cheap, non-toxic and easily accessible substance. You probably are much more familiar with the use of it in the kitchen. It is also a yellow dye that acts repellently and is used in cosmetics. It has positive effects on certain diseases, abnormalities, and syndromes.
It produces citriodiol, which is an active ingredient in repellents. It irritates the skin minimally and works for 2-3 hours (maximum 6 hours). In repellents, it appears in concentrations up to 55 %.
In a study, they tested 5 %, 10 % and 20 % concentration of essential oil. Essential lavender oil at a concentration of 5 % was sufficient for 40 minutes of protection against insects. While higher concentrations of essential oil were sufficient for 120 minutes of protection.
As a mosquito repellent a 1.5 % peppermint oil can be used, even in topical repellents. Peppermint essential oil also works against other insects. It works antifungal and antibacterial.
Other oils to repel insects within a natural way
Among them are citronella, eucalyptus, cinnamon, cloves, geranium, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, bergamot, red thyme, marjoram, spearmint and creeping (breckland) thyme.
Clove oil, creeping thyme oil and red thyme oil are the most effective repellents if used in the form of 3% essential oil. Polish thyme oil combined with citronella oil is an effective repellent combination that protects against insect bites up to 91 %.
Oxford University tested basil and lantana extracts as repellents and found that they exhibit synergistic activity. In combination, they are longer effective against peak mosquitoes than individually. At the same time, the use of both together allows us to use lower concentrations of the extracts. They protect us from bites up to 120 or 150 minutes.
Safety warning for using synthetic repellents
In the study they used 20 % concentration of active ingredients, such as DEET and essential oils, in order to detect skin irritation and penetration. Pro-insect protection lasted up to a maximum of 8 hours. Repellents may contain substances that greatly irritate the eyes, so contact with eyes must be avoided. Some repellents can penetrate the skin. One of these is DEET, which can penetrate the skin up to 14 %. While essential oils can penetrate into the skin only up to 3 %. Essential oils also minimize skin irritation compared to DEET, which moderately irritates the skin.
Repellents should only be used on the exterior parts of the body.
- Don’t apply it to children under the age of 2 years.
- Never apply repellents on hands of children, because they are frequently in the contact with their mouth / eyes.
- Do not put in on your clothes.
- When we no longer need the repellent, we recommend showering with soap to remove the repellent from the skin as soon as possible, in order to avoid unwanted effects.
- If irritation occurs, the area must be rinsed with water and soap.
- The instructions must be followed closely.
If you can, avoid the hours when mosquitoes are active in order to prevent contact with them. If you want to go for a walk it is better to use repellents with essential oils, since they don’t irritate the skin so much and they also smell really nice.