Q: Are some people more attractive to mosquitoes?

A: Yes, certain traits can attract or repel mosquitoes. They are the sounds synonymous with an Australian barbecue: sizzling sausages, the hiss of a beer being opened, and of course, the constant slapping of flesh as an army of mosquitoes descends. But have you ever noticed that while you may be driven mad by hovering mozzies, others are completely unfazed. Is it possible mosquitoes prefer some people over others? Yes they do, says Dr Cameron Webb from Westmead Hospital's department of medical entomology in Sydney. And although the reasons behind their preferences are far from certain, it's likely to do with the chemicals in our breath and on our skin. Why the difference? Female mosquitoes are primarily attracted to our body heat and the carbon dioxide we breathe out, which indicate we are warm-blooded animals with the blood they need to develop fertile eggs. So the more carbon dioxide we emit, the more attractive we are to females looking for a protein hit. (Male mosquitoes don't bite). Larger people tend to emit more carbon dioxide than smaller people, as do pregnant women and those who exert themselves.This is why we are often annoyed most by mosquitoes after we play sports and are breathing heavily. Mosquitoes are also attracted to different chemicals on our skin, Webb says. "When mosquitoes get close to a person they make a decision on whether they bite or not based on essentially the smell of our skin, and that smell can vary from person to person because of different combinations of chemicals on the skin," he says. However, researchers are still uncertain which chemicals mosquitoes...
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