Mozzie Mayhem

2nd August 2019

If you feel you’re being plagued by hordes of mosquitoes every night, while the rest of the family remain serenely bite-free, you’re not imagining it. Studies show that these shrewd little pests are attracted to a number of factors, from our blood group (they like type-O apparently), to chemicals released in our breath, to the lactic acid we emit while exercising and the amount of oestrogen we have in our body. They also love it when we drink alcohol, because this raises our metabolic rate, which in turn increases the amount of carbon dioxide we emit (yes, just to annoy us during those lovely summer evenings spent eating and drinking al fresco). Pregnant abstainers needn’t feel smug, either, as they adore your higher body temperature too. We can all make common sense changes like covering up, and avoiding drinking and exercising, but we can’t change our entire body chemistry… so what else can we do to ward off these pesky flying insects? Lisa Botwright finds out more…

DEET (an acronym for a group of chemicals with extremely long unintelligible names) is a repellent that works by interfering with a mosquito’s receptors. It’s enormously effective, and the key ingredient for most over-the-counter sprays, but it smells vile and can cause irritation – so if you’re after a natural remedy, you can make up your own bite-blitzing formula easily. Mix five drops of lemon oil with 30 drops of eucalyptus essential oil, add to four ounces of witch hazel (or rubbing alcohol, vodka, or almond oil), then mix it all up and pour it into a spray bottle. (Remember to use good quality essential oils, or you won’t get optimum potency.) Happily, the DEET-rivalling properties of this natural alternative has been accepted by science – an American study showed that using at least 32 per cent eucalyptus oil gave more than 95 per cent protection against mosquitoes for three hours.

You can also try taking 100mg a day of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) as a preventative, since it’s said to produce a skin odour undetectable by humans but disagreeable to flying insects.

If the worse comes to the worse, and you do get bitten (almost inevitable in my case), do not scratch it! When a mosquito bites, our bodies release histamine, which causes itching. The more we scratch, the more histamine gets released and so on. Hydrocortisone will ease that insanely irritating tingle, but if you’d like to try natural remedies initially, there are lots to choose from. You’ll need something with excellent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties – try witch hazel, raw honey or aloe vera gel. Mosquito plasters are a great natural way to deter children (and dozing adults) from scratching. And, of course, essential oils are ideal: mix two to three drops of peppermint with the same of lavender and 30 ml of water, before shaking up in a spray bottle.

If you’re scrabbling around in your bathroom cabinet trying to find something to use, you can even try your clay face mask: clay is used in beauty treatments to draw out impurities, so it makes a great product for removing toxins out of a bite. For almost instant relief from pain and itchiness, mix some clay with water to produce a fine paste and cover the bite until it dries.

If you’re unlucky enough to have those distinctive red sores all over your body, a soothing lavender or oat bath will also really help (but avoid peppermint oil late at night as it’s a natural stimulant).
Keep any of these natural remedies on hand to calm and reduce itchiness and irritation – and don’t let the mozzies spoil your summer.

It’s important to seek medical advice if there are symptoms of infection, such as pus or increasing pain, swelling or redness; if you develop a high temperature, swollen glands and other flu-like symptoms; or if you feel dizzy and short of breath. Right: peppermint oil £15 (10ml)

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