If you have a nice dinner out on the patio of a Thai home with your Thai and farang (foreigner) friends, you for sure will be visited by Mosquitoes (in Thai “Yuung”). But the brunt of the attack is going to be on the farangs (foreigners in Thailand). Everyone else laughs with the common joke that “farang blood is sooo sweet”, as battalions of the winged bandits are furiously attacking your feet and legs and making you go a bit nuts. There is no question that by the end of the evening or sooner, you will be very uncomfortable and looking to do almost anything to relieve the intense itch from all of those little red spots on your body.
Maybe the joke about your sweet blood is not so far off the mark. Our American diets are not bitter, and what we eat is what is pumped all over our bodies in a prepared banquet for our tiny flying enemies. There are particular foods, much of it in the Thai diet, that apparently are not tasty for mosquitoes, so it seems reasonable that if we change our diet a little (another small sacrifice for living in paradise), we may become less appealing towards the little blood suckers.
First, a few facts about your enemy and what they do to us: Female mosquitoes are the only ones which will feed on your blood, which it needs for egg production. What attracts these critters to you is the body heat and carbon dioxide emitted from their human targets. When you have been targeted, the mosquito finds an area where the veins are exposed and there is a good flow of blood. Ankles are a prime location for this and most people suffer from bites on the ankles. While the mosquito is sucking out your blood, it is injecting a saliva with enzymes to stop the blood from clotting and be free flowing, plus a pain killer so you don’t feel the actual mosquito bite. Your body’s immune system responds by sending histamine and immunoglobulin (a protein molecule) to fight the foreign invader and so we have an allergenic reaction (hence, the itchy red spot). It is also believed that the entry of oxygen into the wound also contributes to the itchy feeling.
So when one of these little guys approaches the many legs under the dinner table, they have quite a selection of tastes due to the diet and immune system of each person. New visitors to Thailand do not have a built up immunity to the locally grown mosquitoes, so these newbies will generally be the better choice for the attackers. But by changing your diet slightly you can make your blood less attractive to these tiny flying monsters.
Garlic – Eating healthy amounts of garlic in your food seems to be a strong deterrent. This might be due to chemical compounds in the garlic or it may be due to the odor of garlic seeping from the skin pores which masks the natural body odors like carbon dioxide, sweat and lactic acid and prevents the mosquito from homing in on you. Garlic is available as a mosquito repellent in spray form in some areas, but it is better for your health to just eat a lot of it (hey, it may also prevent all kinds of illnesses) .
Bananas – OK, the jury is still out on this one. There have been a few studies on this matter, and in ’09 a study published in Nature Magazine from the University of California noted that the mosquito avoids the smells of a certain chemical (3-octanol) found in bananas, grapes and strawberries. And there are a lot of personal reports (not scientific at all) from people in Thailand claiming that bananas do work as a deterrent. In any case, the small sweet bananas of Northern Thailand taste sooo good, that it is definitely worth trying this prevention. I am even lucky enough to have a producing banana tree in my yard.
Citrus Fruits – Acid-like fruits such as lemons, oranges and limes are supposed to be a good mosquito deterrent. In Thailand they taste extra good, and are plentiful and cheap, so this is another easy thing to do in the prevention of mosquito attacks. Orange juice sold in the streets of Chiang Mai is really good tasting, and it is good for one’s health in many ways (and cheap, too).
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) - Taken in high dosages every day, and up to 2 weeks before traveling is sworn by many people to stop mosquitoes from biting.
Onions – According to personal reports, upping the amount of onions in a diet deters the flying monsters. Add more onions to soups and sautéed anything.
Thai Chilies – Every Thai person will tell you that mosquitoes don’t bite them because they eat a lot of Thai chilies. OK, we can never eat as much as the typical Thai person (at least most of us can’t), but if you are in Thailand, you should up your spice level a little bit anyway (it makes a lot of things better), and if it helps on the mosquito front, all the better.
Basil, lemongrass and rosemary are used in Thai cooking, and they happen to be natural repellents for mosquitoes.
Tonic Water – Another good reason to have a Gin & Tonic because tonic water contains ‘quinine’ a natural mosquito repellent. Drink up.
Brewer’s Yeast – is another natural deterrent. Easy to add to home cooked recipes.
Foods that Attract Mosquitos
Salty Foods and substantial amounts of carbohydrates, like pasta and potatoes and bread attract the mosquitoes. But you already know plenty of other reasons (for your health) to avoid these food in any case. Salty or potassium rich foods contribute to the release of lactic acid that attracts mosquitoes.
NOW A DISCLAIMER….
Understand that there are a lot of people — people that act like they know everything, such as a university professor living in a place where there are not a lot of mosquitoes — that say that changing your diet has no effect at all on propensity of attack by mosquitoes. They say it has no effect because they have not seen or conducted a controlled scientific study on it, and that means to them that it must therefore be totally untrue. In my opinion, this is where science shows it’s stupidity (and many university professors as well — you know who you are). If a method of doing something only appeared in the Farmer’s Almanac, then it must be totally untrue according to these “knowledgeable” people. But evidence determined from actual personal experience and being passed on from generation to generation is often more valid than controlled studies.
A couple of Other Tricks to Stop Mosquitoes from feasting on You:
Don’t do a lot of exercise during the early evening: When we have been exercising or working vigorously, our bodies give off more carbon dioxide. If we are planning on enjoying mornings or evenings outdoors, we need to ensure that we have ceased physical activity and that we have cooled down to lessen our attraction to mosquitoes. Also burning candles or other sources of carbon dioxide to deter mosquitoes to those sources rather than to ourselves. When exercising, we also release lactic acid, to which mosquitoes are also attracted.
Dark Clothing: Mosquitoes are highly attracted to dark clothing. It is advised to wear light clothing when spending the evening outdoors.
Your comments and experiences are always appreciated.
My friend Mike that I often have a morning coffee with at Valley Java swears by these AgraCo Mosquito Patches. Not the cheapest method, but each patch lasts a long time. There are 20 in a box, and are especially good if you do camping out where these bad critters fly around. Super safe, it just adds a lot of Vitamin B1 to your body….The beauty of the Don’t Bite Me! Patch is it’s simplicity. The only two ingredients in the Don’t Bite Me! Patch are Vitamin B1 and Aloe. And they last for 36 hours…