Weather Updates

Mosquitoes find some skin sweeter

Updated: April 29, 2012 8:05AM

Q . When my husband and I go camping, he gets eaten alive by mosquitoes unless he uses a bug spray with DEET. I hardly get bitten at all. Why is that?

A. We YOU Docs are sure you’ve heard all the jokes — he’s sweeter than you are, etc. — but the difference in how often you two are bitten might be all about the microbes that live on his skin. Seems that for some of these blood-sucking insects (it’s always the females, males don’t bite) people with a lot of the same type of bacteria on their skin are more delicious than folks with a more complex mixture of microscopic tag-alongs. So perhaps your husband’s microbe mixture is simpler than yours. But there is another possibility: Your husband drinks beer, and you don’t. Mosquitoes are known to love the smell of beer as it wafts off a suds-drinker’s body.

So what’s a target of these flying vampires to do? YOU Docs are fans of oil of lemon eucalyptus (or PMD, for para-menthane-3,8-diol, the synthesized version). It’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, which means it is safe and effective. One application gives two hours protection, about as much as an insect repellant with a low concentration of the chemical DEET. Alpha-Keri and Skin-So-Soft also repel insects; these products are less-effective, but easy on the skin. Another non-DEET choice is Bite Blocker: It’s made with oils of geranium, soybean and coconut, and offers about an hour and a half of protection. DEET is the standard insect repellant that most effectively repels mosquitoes and is now said to be safe for children, although pregnant and breastfeeding women and infants may want to avoid it. It’s available as 4.75 percent DEET for kids and 23.8 percent DEET for adults (it lasts five hours). Another solution: Your husband can take a different mixture of probiotics every day to diversify his skin flora (some of what we eat populates our skin after a bit); that may also repel the skeeters.

Q. I have a slipped disc. My husband and my doctor say I should have surgery. It scares me. Is it a smart move?

A. Even the perfect 10, Bo Derek, had a slipped disc. When those gel-filled pads between your vertebrae become badly damaged and you have tingling, pain or numbness in your legs, surgery may be recommended. That’s the case for about 10 percent of people who have this condition. But we YOU Docs can tell you that a recent study from the Spine Outcomes Research Trial shows that for many people with a herniated — or slipped — disc, surgery has the best outcome. And you are double lucky, because married people who have surgery recover better than single folks.

What makes married people fare better? Seems that a happy marriage can help wound healing by reducing stress (which improves immune function), encouraging you to take better care of yourself (cut down on partying) and lowering your blood pressure.

King Features Syndicate

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