Fight the bite: Avoid being a mosquito magnet this summer

Nov 28, 2021
The biggest summer buzzkill: the fresh, itchy, welt of a mosquito bite. Credit: Getty.

There’s nothing quicker at killing the summer mood than the buzz of those pesky mosquitoes, and with this summer’s predicted La Niña, it’s the perfect climate for mozzies to breed. 

Speaking to ABC Radio Hobart, David Bock of the Australian Museum says the lethal combination of stale water and humid temperatures creates the ideal conditions for a mosquito “explosion”. 

If you’re looking for a way to make your home less inviting for mozzies, associate professor Cameron Webb, from the New South Wales Pathology, offers some helpful tips. 

Backyard and patio protection 

Speaking to the ABC, Dr Webb explains that mosquitos choose to lay their eggs in stagnant water, so homeowners should remove any containers that might hold water in their backyard. With so much rain coming our way, this is a biggie.  

“That’s potted plants, buckets, discarded kids’ toys and also other plastic containers and bottles,” says Dr Webb. 

He also suggests regularly cleaning any clogged gutters and drains at least once a week. 

“If you tip out the water and replace it once a week, the mosquitoes won’t have a chance to complete their development.”

Choosing the right mozzie repellant 

There are also a few approaches you can take when it comes to repelling mosquitoes. While mozzie coils and sticks are a common solution, Dr Webb says they don’t necessarily guarantee protection from bites. 

“If you’re choosing a product, you’re better off using one that contains an insecticide because they’re going to be more effective,” Dr Webb says.

For those opting for personal repellents, all brands currently sold in your local supermarket are approved by authorities and safe to use. Though personal repellants offer over four hours of protection, Dr Webb says the trick is knowing how to use them “correctly”. 

“The secret to using mosquito repellents is to ensure you have even cover over all exposed areas of skin. And there’s no point putting a dab here and there, or spraying it around in the air or applying it to clothing,” he says. 

Repellent needs to be placed directly on the skin to provide a barrier to stop mosquitoes from biting.

Dr Webb also cautions that there’s no evidence that other gimmicky products such as mosquito repellent patches,  wristbands, and even apps, work. 

“Wearing a colourful mosquito wristband won’t protect the rest of your body from mosquito bites. I would avoid those products as much as possible,” he says.

What is true, is that certain people are more likely to get bitten by mozzies than others and it all comes down to the smell of our skin. 

“The secret ingredient here is the chemical cocktail of smell that comes off the bacteria and sweat on our bodies,” Dr Webb explains.  “There’s hundreds of different chemical compounds and it seems some people have that perfect mix of smells that some mosquitoes find irresistible.”

“It has to be on the skin because that provides the barrier to stopping mosquitoes biting,”  says Dr Cameron Webb. Credit: Getty.

What to do with mozzie bites

Everyone’s body reacts differently to mosquito bites, but Dr Webb says the best way to deal with bites is to use a cold pack for the swelling followed by an anti-itch cream. This precaution is especially important for younger children. 

“When they are scratching at them, they tend to break the surface and they can sometimes get a secondary infection,” Dr Webb says.

Something to keep in mind this summer is that it only takes one unlucky mosquito bite to get you sick. So whether you’re a mozzie magnet or think you’re a human mozzie repellent, don’t be complacent and use that insect repellent. 

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