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Consider this: When you’re standing outside, a mosquito can target you from over 150 feet away.

Here’s another scary stat: Mosquitoes kill more people every year around the world than murderers do.

Given the slow trickle of Zika virus into the United States, it’s important to understand how mosquitoes select their victims and what you can do to keep them away. Because mosquitoes can also cause malaria, yellow fever and dengue, among other diseases.

One of the biggest factors that determines how likely you are to get bitten by mosquitoes is your genes. In fact, about one in 10 people are more likely to attract mosquitoes based on specific body chemistry elements.

For instance, high cholesterol levels on the skin can lead to more mosquito bites.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean you have high cholesterol,” said Stephanie Kelleher, DO, family medicine physician at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. “It just means your body very efficiently processes it, which then results in a higher cholesterol byproduct on the skin.”

Mosquitoes are also drawn to carbon dioxide.

“In a backyard gathering of adults and children, mosquitoes will usually gravitate toward the adults because they tend to emit more carbon dioxide,” said Dr. Kelleher. “That doesn’t mean you should skip the normal precautions you would take with your kids to repel mosquitoes, but it so happens the mosquitoes may be more likely to skip over your kids and go for the parents instead.

“You also emit more carbon dioxide when you breathe heavily as a result of physical exertion. So playing wiffle ball, volleyball or other outside games during your summer barbeques might make you a better target than the people sitting around the pool.”

Mosquitoes also seem to make a beeline for anyone emitting the smell of uric acid, or other naturally occurring acids in the human body.

Standing bodies of water are another trouble spot, as mosquitoes lay eggs in that environment. So be sure to regularly clear out and clean out any standing water in your yard and home, such as pet water dishes, pool covers, birdbaths, vases and rain barrels.

As far as keeping them away from you and your family, mosquito repellents with DEET, picaridin or IR3535 as their active ingredient work the best. You can also wear long sleeves and long pants if the weather isn’t too hot.

Be careful of some of the claims surrounding natural mosquito repellents. Lemon eucalyptus oil works well, but vitamin B1 patches don’t have any effect at all. Surprisingly, a Victoria’s Secret perfume kept the mosquitoes at bay during a trial, but you probably don’t want to cover yourself or your kids in perfume for a day outdoors.
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