By Donna Mischke, Director of Family Services at Concierge Care Advisors

Last weekend, my family sat outside by a bonfire roasting marshmallows. Finally, the weather was nice enough to enjoy being outdoors. However, after only an hour or so, I had to go inside and escape from the swarm of mosquitoes who had decided that I was going to be their dinner. I had about 12 mosquito bites.  I have always been a mosquito magnet and have often joked about my presence greatly reducing the prospect of anyone else getting a mosquito bite. Apparently, mosquitoes are more attracted to certain people. Those who have type O blood are more appealing. They are also attracted to dark clothing, sweat, perfume or scented lotions, higher body temperatures, and people who eat a lot of potassium or salt. People who expel more carbon dioxide also attract mosquitoes.

In addition to mosquito bites being annoying and unpleasant, they do have potential to carry disease and be deadly. According to CNET, Business Insider and BBC News, mosquito related bites can kill approximately 725,000 to a million people each year. They can spread diseases such as West Nile, Yellow Fever, Zika, malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya and Lymphatic Filariasis, just to name a few. Our elderly population is at a higher risk for experiencing complications from diseases caused by mosquitoes. Infections are harder to fight off with a weakened immune system. Most retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and adult family homes take great precautions to reduce the number of mosquitoes for their residents.

There are many ways to repel the pesky little creatures. Personally, I am allergic to most of the commercial mosquito repellents. A couple of years ago, I searched for and found some great tips to help reduce my chances of being attacked. One of my favorite natural mosquito repellents is to mix some coconut oil with a trusted essential oil. I use Young Living but also find that DoTerra is a trusted source as well. A couple drops of peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, or lavender oil mixed in with coconut oil or any carrier type oil and rubbed all over the skin will make you smell fantastic and keep the mosquitoes far away. There are other ways to help prevent mosquito bites as well. These pesky insects lay their eggs in standing water, so avoid any type of standing water around the house. This may include birdbaths and pet water dishes. Any place that gathers water is going to be a prime spot for mosquitoes to lay eggs. Smoke is also a repellent for mosquitoes. Any type of fire or torch may help. Citronella candles and torches can be extremely helpful outside. Wearing loose fitting and light-colored clothing can also reduce the chances of being bitten. Also, mosquitoes are weak fliers so a good stiff breeze or fan can keep them from getting close. Drinking alcohol causes a sweet smell in our sweat and will attract the insects. They are also attracted to certain types of plants and nectar, so staying away from flowers, tall grass and weeds can reduce the chances of a bite. However, planting herbs like mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, and thyme around the house can repel mosquitoes. Throwing some of those same dried herbs into a fire or boiling the herbs and making a natural mosquito repellent to spray is extremely helpful. Of course, there are zappers and lights that claim to help reduce the number of mosquito and other insects around the yard. And finally, there are many commercial type products on the market that may be helpful.

It is important to try to prevent being a victim of these pesky insects. Not only are mosquito bites painful, itchy, and annoying, they can also be carriers of diseases. The senior population and others whose immune systems may be compromised are at a higher risk and should always take precaution. Now that I know the mosquitoes are out in full force; I will be better prepared next time I go out to enjoy a family bonfire.