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Ask a Best Doctor: Why Do Mosquitoes Love My Sweet, Sweet Blood?

The a female mosquito begins to bite the photographer's hand at Everglades National Park August 12, 2002 in Flamingo, Florida.
Photo: FEMA/Getty Images

It’s about the time of year when I always find myself covered in bug bites, wondering if mosquitoes actually find me sweeter than other people. Is it possible that they do? And is there anything other than bug spray I can use to fend them off?

In response to my question, during this potentially horrific summer of blood-sucking insects, “you are exactly right,” says Dr. Marjorie Slankard, a clinical professor of medicine at New York Presbyterian who practices at Columbia Doctors East Side. “Apparently one in ten people are really attractive to insects, to mosquitoes. It can really happen.”

It may be something as simple as your blood type (mosquitoes are really into Type 0); your physical appearance (if you’re big and/or tall, mosquitoes may be attracted to the extra CO2 you give off); your scent (mosquitoes are into floral perfumes, and sweat, of course); or what you’re wearing (black clothing emits more heat, which mosquitoes like). If it’s not one of those factors, there’s also the slightly more complicated possibility that you process cholesterol in a way that keeps a high degree of it close to the skin: Mosquitoes like that, too. 

As for keeping them away, Slankard says, don’t be afraid of the chemical DEET, which in many bug sprays (like Cutter, for instance) is used safely. She also suggests trying Avon’s Skin-So-Soft moisturizer, which has been shown to keep mosquitoes away for some people who go outside after applying. 

Blood, Sweet Blood: Why Do Mosquitoes Love Me?