Good Questions: Spam, Skeeters & Scratching

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every Friday, we go digging into the mailbag to answer some as-yet unanswered Good Questions from viewers. This week, Heather Brown isn’t just scratching the surface.

Mosquitos really like Jessica from Elk River’s husband. She wants to know: “Do mosquitos prefer specific people?”

Yes. Mosquitos are attracted to the various chemicals we release. Studies have shown blood type,

drinking beer, pregnancy, exercise and larger bodies can all factor into how much of those chemicals we give off.

Arnie from Edina wants to know: “Why does scratching relieve an itch?”

According to Dr. Glenn Giesler, a neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota, there are two reasons. First, scratching the surface of the skin diffuses or pushes away any chemicals that might irritate our skin. (For example, if a person runs into a thistle bush and is bothered by the chemicals that come from that bush.) The second reason goes beyond our skin into our nervous system. When someone itches, neurons are firing away and sending information to our brains. According to Dr. Geisler’s research, scratching blocks that information from reaching our brains. Essentially, the scratching is telling those neurons to cool down.

Patrick from Ortonville asks: “Where did Spam come from?”

According to Hormel, Jay Hormel first came up with the idea in 1926, but didn’t launch the “Meat of Many Uses” until 1937. By 1940, 70 percent of Americans living in cities were eating Spam, but it was really World War II where the easily transportable food became popular all over the world. It’s not entirely clear where the name originated, but one popular theory is that it comes from “spiced ham.” The story from Hormel goes: Kenneth Daigneau, a friend of Jay Hormel, came up with the name at a New Year’s Party in 1937. He received $100 for naming the new luncheon meat.

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