Science Questions

Do you react more to mosquitoes as you age?

Sun, 11th May 2008

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Monika asked:

When I was younger mosquito bites didn't seem to bother me so much. There was hardly an itch and not much swelling either. Now they itch strongly and swell up more. I wonder if the mosquito saliva has become more "poisonous" in the last years? Luckily I don't get bitten much.


This boils down to having an 'adaptive' immune system.  A mosquito will inject a cocktail of 20 or so proteins, including something to block platelets, something to block your immune system and something to stop your blood from clotting.  The immune system is very good at reacting to foreign proteins, and the more you are exposed, the better your immune system can react.  This means your immune system gets 'tuned up' to react, and so you can get a stronger reaction more quickly.  But not everyone's immune system will adapt in the same way.


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Monika asked the Naked Scientists: When I was younger mosquito bites didn't seem to bother me so much. There was hardly an itch and not much swelling either. Now they itch strongly and swell up more. I wonder if the mosquito saliva has become more "poisonous" in the last years. I don't suffer from allergies, my psoriasis is annoyingly enough. Luckily I don't get bitten much. Gre from Germany Monika What do you think? Monika, Thu, 8th May 2008

I am no expert but have known someone with your reactions only in reverse and they found she was deficient in certain vitamins and when they corrected the deficiency her reaction became less severe and very tolerable.. but when she was down again then her bites were worse.. once regular monitoring began they were able to have her increase her uptake of certain foods to bring up her levels  and prevent such serious effects.

I don't know if that would help you, but getting it checked could help at least it couldn't hurt!

I wonder if you are lacking certain vitamins now that you are a adult.

I know us women have big changes in our body chemistry as we age.. loss of calcium and such.. It might be a thought! Karen W., Thu, 8th May 2008

Eating better is always a good thing, I'm eating a lot of veggies, YUM. Perhaps I should have my vitamin levels checked, worth a try.

The worst thing about those bites  is, that they might develop into new psoriasis spots, so I try to avoid scratching. Anything that will reduce the itch is helpful.

I hope to get some ideas from this, it's not life threatening, but annoying for sure!

Monika MonikaS, Fri, 9th May 2008

Monika as far as I know that i's mainly the female mosquitoes
who are feeding on human blood for their young. And they can smell
the sweetest type of blood from a long distance away,

Only the midges like biting me to bits. I like my healthy diet too., VEg, FRuit, fish etc, MMMMM rosalind dna, Fri, 9th May 2008

Yep... I learned that while studying biology at the university, the females are the "suckers" 

Since our climate gets warmer, esp. warmer winters, we'll get more of them. The eggs and larvae simply survive in larger numbers. <sigh>

Monika MonikaS, Fri, 9th May 2008

Here too sometimes both winter and summer.. not every winter but many when the cold is more mild.

Hey I just had someone send me something about rubbing a dryer fabric softener sheet across your clothes and carry and unused one in your pocket.. I haven't tried it but it said that it helps keep you mosquito free.. might be worth a try if your not allergic.. just put one in your pocket... might work! Karen W., Fri, 9th May 2008

Or citronella into your clothes or in your food then it's in your
blood so that puts the mozzie (mosquitos) off rosalind dna, Fri, 9th May 2008

Luckily I'm not too attractive to mosquitoes, so I only get bitten once in a while. It might be the essential oils and perfumes in the softener sheet that work like a repellent, but I haven't heard about it before.
When I'm in mosquito land (a.k.a. Sweden) I use DEET containing repellents on exposed skin and nets.

Monika MonikaS, Fri, 9th May 2008

Yeah I guess the stem is not used so contains no pollen so  it should be safe but would it detour the mosquitos... I think it is good for hayfever  but does it work in the food to detour them....? Karen W., Fri, 9th May 2008

Thank you Naked Scientist for the answer om the show!

But for once I'm not happy that I'm getting better at something! I'd rather have my immune system forget about reacting more efficiently to mosquito bites. *whine*

Monika MonikaS, Wed, 14th May 2008

Dear all, first let me start with saying that I am doing a report on mosquitoes with my friend (we are in our last year of high school) and we did an experiment, where we tested if consuming garlic, alcohol and vitamin B would have any effect on mosquitoes. now I am wondering if you could give me a more detailed answer as to what exactly attracts the mosquito (to us, human beings)? and do you perhaps know what components are in the saliva of a mosquito? (if this is too general; I would be mostly interested in the Anopheles kind - Anopheles Atroparvus - to be exact) I am looking forward to hearing from you soon! Greetings M. Kuypers anonymous, Wed, 24th Nov 2010

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