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Why Do Mosquitoes Bite You More Than Others?

Are you one of those people who’s been singled out for constant attack by mosquitoes? Ever felt like the designated bug decoy at a party? It does seem that those pesky biting insects have a preference for certain individuals, so the real question is: why you?

I wish there were a simple answer, but scientists have only isolated a few potential causes. It is likely that the full story remains to be elucidated – and may be related to small genetic variations in human odor. However, we do know that mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide (that we expel as we breathe), and warmer skin temperatures. So I guess if you’re a heavy-breathing, hot-blooded person then you might need an extra layer of DEET? Or maybe hold your breath and wear a scuba suit when you’re in the presence of mosquitoes? Just kidding.

Interestingly, one small study notes that mosquitoes are more likely to land on people who are drinking beer. Since alcohol tends to cause vasodilation of blood vessels, the enhanced skin warmth could be a mosquito attractant. Others have postulated that tipsy people are slower at swatting off mosquitoes and are therefore more likely to be bitten.

My personal suspicion is that some of us react to mosquito proteins (injected when they bite us) more robustly than others. That means that while a mosquito’s bite may leave only a tiny, fleeting mark on one person, another might develop a large red hive that itches intensely. So if your immune system is hyper-reactive to mosquito proteins, you’re likely to suffer more from each bite that you receive. That alone could make you feel as if you’re being singled out by the nasty insects, when the reality is that others are being bitten just as frequently.

I guess the take home message here is that insect-repellent is still the best defense against mosquito bites, although some might argue that keeping a heavy-breathing, sweaty, beer-drinking guy nearby might provide an alternative decoy?

Enjoy your summer – and don’t scratch yourself to death!

Twitter Transparency: 6 Rules

They say transparency is king — the more you share the better you look. But I’ve got rules. Here are a few things you won’t find in my Twitter stream:

Beer. I was recently speaking at a meeting out of town and caught up with some friends at the end of the day to visit and have a beer. I was in a different time zone and noted on Twitter the specific microbrew I was enjoying. The following week in my clinic a parent commented on my social activity. While I’m no stranger to transparency, the realization of my visibility was eye-opening. It reminded me that everyone’s watching and 140 characters doesn’t offer enough space to explain the why, or the time zone, of what I’m doing. So I’ve sworn to keep activities like beer consumption out of my twitter stream.

My kids. I try to keep my children out of my social footprint as much as possible. But as most of you who follow me know, they sneak their cute little selves in on occasion. It’s unfortunate because everybody loves hearing about my kids. This is at the request of my wife who’s a booger about privacy. I do mention the occasional date night with my daughter but, by and large, you won’t hear much. Kids are great jumping-off points for personal digression, but we have to be careful about using them to our own advantage. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Doctor Discovers Hidden Alchoholic Beverage

When looking for the cause of atrial fibrillation during a physical examination, not only can the doctor’s olfactory bulb be helpful, but so can the examination of what gets brought into the exam room.

Patient: “Hey doc, it’s just a Pepsi.”

Doctor: “Really? Can I see?”

Nothing a good knife and a piece of scotch tape can’t manufacture.

Case solved.


*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Alcohol At The Beach

In continuing with the theme of getting ready for the beach and water sports this summer, let’s consider what to do about substance abuse. There is no controversy whatsoever about the fact that persons under the influence of alcohol or any other mind-altering substance have a higher incidence of accidents. In fact, ingestion of alcohol figures prominently as a statistic in falls, drownings, motor vehicle accidents and virtually every variety of activity that has ever been studied. The issue, then, is not whether or not alcohol contributes to illness and injury, but to what extent we are able to control its use by reason and, when necessary, prohibition.

Im June of 2008, Solana Beach, California banned alcohol consumption on its beaches for at least a year. This ban continues. Here is what appears on the city’s website:

Alcoholic Beverages – Alcohol is banned at all beach areas in Solana Beach. Alcohol is also prohibited in the parking lot, community center, viewpoint or any other public place adjacent to the beach. Glass is prohibited as well.

There are similar rules at, among others, Torrey Pines State Beach, Cardiff, San Elijo, South Carlsbad and Carlsbad state beaches.

City officials made this move proactively, to avoid the sorts of tragedies and social problems that have intermittently plagued “wet” beaches. Recognizing that judgment is often an irrelevant factor when it comes to drinking alcohol, they made a strong and, in my opinion, laudable move. Like it or not, judgment is impaired by drinking alcohol, so the concept of “responsible drinking” is an oxymoron when water sports and potentially hazardous surf conditions coexist with beer, wine, and liquor. Of course, the same is true for certain prescription drugs and illicit drugs.

Needless to say, civil libertarians and numerous other individuals are opposed to mandated prohibitions. They cite lack of observation of problems, principles of freedom and personal rights, and even the loss of romanticism. The issue obviously has two sides.

From a safety perspective, it’s a no-brainer. There’s no benefit to drinking alcohol and entering the ocean. It can never make you safer, and can only make you less safe. Even if you are able to drink alcohol at the beach and safely dispose of your metal cans and glass bottles, not litter, not be rowdy or obnoxious, and keep your drinking to yourself, the moment you dip a toe, you are a greater risk to yourself and to the lifeguards and other rescuers entrusted to protect you. You may not believe that to be the case, but the stories and statistics don’t support you. Having pulled intoxicated victims from the water, treated them at the scene, stitched their heads and set their broken bones in the emergency department, and having had to tell their families and friends that they are dead (while knowing that none of this would have ever happened had the victims been sober), I am offering well-intentioned advice. Not every city will mandate that you leave your beer cooler at home when you head to the beach. When you need to be the one to decide, choose wisely.

Preview the Annual Meeting of the Wilderness Medical Society, which will be held in Snowmass, Colorado July 24-29, 2009.

Join me from January 24 to February 2, 2010 for an exciting dive and wilderness medicine CME adventure aboard the Nautilus Explorer to Socorro Island, Mexico to benefit the Wilderness Medical Society.

photo courtesy of

*This post, Alcohol At The Beach, was originally published on by Paul S. Auerbach, MD, MS.*

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