Eating lots of garlic, burning citronella incense, rubbing spit on the itchy area or carving a cross into it with your thumb nail… we all know remedies against bug bites that don’t work. But what do you need to know if you don’t want to let mosquito bites spoil your beach holidays?
1) – Did you ever wonder why mosquitoes mostly attack ankles and lower legs? It’s because our sweat is derived from our blood, and blood-thirsty insects have learned to find us by picking up the scent of carbon dioxide and octenol - in other words, they like body odour. Especially the smell of human feet. If you wash your feet several times a day, you will make it more difficult for the insects to find you.
2) – The only thing you can do to make mosquitoes dislike your smell is wearing DEET, Icaridin or Picaridin. Citronella and Lemon Eucalyptus Oil are safe, natural alternatives to DEET, but they are less effective. All scientific studies to date have found that dietary changes don’t have any influence on whether you are bitten or not, so don’t worry about garlic, vitamin B or thiamine supplements. Apply the insect repellent after your sunscreen.
3) Whatever you do, avoid blue – uch as this might disagree with your fashion sense, it’s best to opt for neutral colours as bright and dark colours attract insects.
4) Isn't there an app for that? – Of course there is. I haven't tried the iPhone app yet because the mosquito season doesn't seem to have kicked off yet in London - touch wood - but I'll probably just check the iTunes store and download the best-rated free one when I need one. It actually seems the Android app Mosquito Repellent by Atticapp gets more good reviews than any googleble iPhone app, so I might get Freddie to install one instead.
– Some people have a stronger reaction to mosquito bites than others. If you suffer from severe reactions, hydrocortisone cream can help reduce the itching, swelling and redness. Topical antihistamines and anesthetics such as Ibuprofen gel or Xylocaine gel are ideal for quick temporary relief.
6) – If you don’t have the aforementioned medication at hand, you can always try one of the many home remedies to relieve the itch. Effective tricks include wetting the skin and rubbing baking soda, salt or a crushed aspirin tablet on the itchy lump. Other people apply dry soap, toothpaste, vinegar, honey, tea tree oil, lemon juice, raw potato, onion, nail varnish, crushed basil, Vicks VapoRub or a hot tea bag to the affected area. These home remedies work best when the bite is fresh and you usually have to repeat them more often. Whatever you do, don’t scratch – scratching will make the allergic reaction worse and if you damage your skin, you run the risk of an infection.