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The summer war on mosquitoes

Columnist Martha Garcia's mosquito survival kit includes citronella incense sticks, Backwoods bug spray, Off Skintastic, Bug Soother, dryer sheets, After Bite and antiseptic spray.

I grab the ammunition as I head out the door.

With Deep Woods Off, Bug Soother, Off Skintastic, citronella incense sticks, a jacket, blanket and After Bite, I make my way to my son's baseball game.

Lately, I have become a delicious sweet treat to swarms of mosquitoes and gnats. I am the lucky victim with red welts and bumps on my legs, arms and any other place these pesky insects might find when I'm not looking. (If only they could take fat off of me instead of blood!)

Why do mosquitoes thrive on my blood? I ask myself every summer.

I was dumbfounded the annoying flying stalkers have their own website, mosquitoworld.net. I visited it to learn why my body seemed to be craved by these blood-thirsty beasts.

I found mosquitoes use heat sensors from their antennas and mouth to locate blood capillaries on the skin. Supposedly, they don’t bite, but pierce the skin with their tiny needle-like proboscis to tap into the blood. This is where it gets even more interesting. Their proboscis has two microscopic tubes: one sucks out the blood, while the other injects saliva, which acts as a mild pain killer and allows the blood to flow freely without clotting.

It sickens me to think the bumps on my legs are carrying the saliva of these pests.

Once your body realizes it has been attacked, the reactions brew. Antibodies produce a histamine that results in lovely welts, or wheals, and the annoying itch I scratch until it bleeds.

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Each person reacts differently. Unfortunately, I am one of the lucky ones who look like a bumpy mutant.

What can you do to help with the aftermath? Doctors encourage not to scratch as it promotes more itching and can break the skin, leaving you susceptible to an infection, but I am a skin breaker because it feels so good.

Mosquitoworld.net suggests to wash the area, apply calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream and an ice pack, and take ibuprofen and antihistamines. I apply After Bite when I feel the onset of a welt.

The key is to repel the swarms effectively to stay safe, as mosquitoes can carry deadly diseases such as West Nile and the Zika Virus, Malaria and Yellow and Dengue fevers. These viruses spread after a mosquito bites an infected person, and then continues to bite more people.

Mosquitoes are attracted to fragrances in soaps, shampoos and perfumes. Avoid using them if you plan to be outdoors.

Despite the summer heat, covering the body can protect you from mosquitoes. If you use a repellent, unfortunately, the most potent one is the chemical DEET, or diethylouamide, which blinds the receptors mosquitoes use to find skin scents. The chemical is not pleasant to smell, either.

You can use a natural repellent such as Bug Soother, which contains vanilla and lemongrass, which bugs hate. Dryer sheets and Listerine Mouthwash are known to mask skin odor as well. I have used all of them.

Stay protected during the summer months, and win the war on mosquitoes.

Martha Garcia is a writer, communications instructor and bilingual marketing professional who lives in Bettendorf. She can be contacted at marthagarciawriter@yahoo.com.

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