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Are your veins carrying mosquitoes’ favorite vintage?
Ah, summer. Longer days, warm weather, vacation days, and the constant buzz of friendly mosquitoes. Wait, you don’t like hosting these annoying and uninvited party guests? Well, like them or not, mosquitoes certainly like you — the bumpy, itchy evidence is proof.
But could your blood type be luring these little biters to come in even closer? If the answer is yes, you might not be able to change your blood type but you can certainly do your part to keep these nasty bloodsuckers away from your party.
What does ‘blood type’ mean?
If you’ve ever donated blood, you should be able to pull out your little donor card and see a great big letter: A, AB, B, or O. These are the four official types of blood. But it’s a bit more complicated than that — for people, anyway, if not for the mosquitoes.
The letter of your blood type corresponds to the antigens you either have or don’t have in your blood. Antigens make your body react to invaders in the body. They help your body produce antibodies that are designed to protect you from whatever is trying to get in your system.
This is important because if you try to get a transfusion of blood that doesn’t match your own, the antigens won’t match and you’ll be in for a world of hurt when your body tries to attack the new blood.
As far as blood type is concerned, we focus on the presence or absence of two antigens: A and B.
Although there are over 600 different antigens, most people have pretty much the same ones. However, as far as blood type is concerned, we focus on the presence or absence of two antigens: A and B (surprise, surprise).
From there, it’s not too difficult to figure out the pattern: if you have A antigens on your red blood cells, you have type A blood. If you have A and B antigens on your red blood cells, you have AB blood. Simple enough, but what about that fourth blood type? Where does Type O come from?
If you are lucky enough to have Type O blood, chances are the Red Cross is blowing up your phone on a semi-regular basis. Why? Because you, my friend, are a Universal Donor. Your blood has neither A antigens nor B antigens on the red blood cells, allowing your blood to mix and match with any of the other three types without harm.
+ or – means you either do or don’t have the rH factor protein
And one other little thing: if you have that blood donor card complete with big letter, you’ll probably also notice a “negative” or a “positive” sign associated with the A, AB, B, or O. That doesn’t mean that you have good or bad blood, that means you either do or don’t have the rH factor protein.
If you have rH negative blood, you can donate blood to someone with rH positive or negative blood. If you’re rH positive, you’re limited to donating your blood to rH positive people.
If the blood bank seems too picky to you, don’t worry — there is a group of creatures out there that will be pleased as punch to take your blood, no matter the type (even if they seem to prefer some types over others).
Do mosquitoes really like some blood types more than others?
The short answer? Yes.
Much like blood banks, mosquitoes seem to prefer Type O blood. Not only are people with Type O blood considered universal donors because their blood can be successfully transfused into people with any blood type, but they are also the first choice at the mosquito buffet.
Mosquitoes land on someone with Type O blood 83.3 percent of the time, as compared to 46.5 percent landing on people with Type A blood.
Science has known about mosquito meal preferences since 1972 but that hasn’t stopped researchers from delving even further into the eating habits of these pesky insects.
A study in the Journal of Medical Entomology (entomology means the study of insects) published in 2004 went even further in-depth: these researchers proved once again that Type O blood was the fave of the mosquito. In fact, mosquitoes landed on someone with Type O blood 83.3 percent of the time, as compared to 46.5 percent of landings on people with Type A blood.
But mosquitoes can’t see our blood donor cards and they don’t have x-ray vision that somehow enables them to see the antigens on our red blood cells. So how can they determine what blood type they like the best? Are mosquitoes the secret geniuses we’ve all been searching for?
No, mosquitoes are not really that smart. For a mosquito, beauty is only skin deep. Your skin is constantly producing chemicals that may be invisible to us, but they are certainly obvious to mosquitoes.
The types of chemicals you are creating and sending off into the air are determined by — you guessed it — your blood type. The chemicals are actually directly connected to your DNA but your DNA determines your blood type, so mosquitoes can be pretty choosy when they want to be.
What else makes a mosquito bite some people more than others?
It’s not only blood type that makes you look more delicious to a mosquito. And lucky for those of us who are especially susceptible to mosquito visits, there are actually some of these enticing factors that you can change.
Your judgy neighbors aren’t the only ones paying attention to your new summer outfit. Mosquitoes are much more interested in dark colors than light. So if you’re enjoying the beach in a black sweatshirt and dark jeans, you might be inviting the bugs to the snack bar.
That being said, mosquitoes also obviously love bare skin. So even if you’re wearing a light-colored bikini, you’re still likely to suffer the aftereffects of a mosquito visit.
Sorry, but just because your metabolism might prevent you from gaining those extra pounds after your BBQ binge doesn’t mean there are no negative effects of your high metabolism.
Mosquito experts, like Dr. Jonathan Day at the University of Florida, have shown that the higher your metabolism, the more delicious you might appear to mosquitoes. This is because with higher metabolisms come more carbon dioxide production and mosquitoes love that.
So what can you do? Consider taking added preventions (see below) if you’re outside in a mosquito-infested area right after working out, while you’re pregnant, or if you know that you have been naturally blessed with a high metabolic rate.
Luckily, there are other ways to prevent mosquitoes that might work a little bit better than changing your metabolism.
This one is a little trickier to control, especially if you’re out in the sun on a hot summer day. Mosquitoes seem to love the sweat on your skin just as much as those chemicals and carbon dioxide. So if you’re too hot, try to sit in the shade for a while or take a dip in the pool before getting back into the sun.
What can you do to prevent mosquito bites?
Take a glance in any pharmacy or department store right before summer hits and you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of products claiming to prevent mosquito bites. There are candles, sprays, ointments, and mesh fabrics — and that doesn’t even take into account the products beyond the front door. But what will help?
In terms of bug repellant sprays, DEET is still the way to go. Experts recommend at least 10 percent DEET in your products. After application, that should last you for a couple of hours (but you’ll get more bang for your buck if you go with higher percentages of DEET).
You should also pay attention to your location: mosquitoes love standing water and still air, so if you’re being eaten up standing next to a leftover bucket of water, invest in a fan to mix the air around or get rid of the old water. Your skin will thank you.
If none of those things work, invest in a mosquito net. Keep it around your bed, around your face, or around your entire body at all times, depending on your level of mosquito hate.
Even if you have Type O blood, you’re not destined to always be feasted upon by mosquitoes. Invest in some bug spray, wear those light-colored pants, and stay cool!
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Mosquitoes aren’t the only things you should be preventing during your summer fun days in the sun. Keep an eye out for these guys, too.