It is not unusual to hear somebody say that he or she has a mosquito bite. Although the person manages to drive his or her point home, the term mosquito bite is a misnomer, since mosquitos do not bite. What they do is pierce the skin to suck blood. In the process it releases saliva, which the body tries to repel, thereby causing the red bump with an annoyingly itching sensation. Since people’s immunity levels differ, people react differently to mosquito bites. There are those who are completely immune to them as a result of recurrent bites while others even a single bite can lead to increased body sensitivity.
How mosquito bites occur
Mosquitoes have elongated pointed mouths called proboscis. The proboscis consists of two tubes which the mosquito uses to inject saliva and suck blood. The saliva has an enzyme that acts a pain-killer and prevents the blood from clotting. The mosquito is, therefore, able to suck blood without drawing attention to itself.
When the body’s immune system detects the saliva enzyme, it perceives it as a foreign invader like a virus or disease triggering bacteria. The body antibodies, therefore, release histamine from the mast cells. Upon production, histamine attacks the pierced site, in the process dilating the blood vessels in the area. The increased flow of blood brings additional white blood cells to keep off the antigen. If the body produces too much histamine, the pierced spot might swell and itch, resulting in a bumped known as a wheal or mosquito bite.
Diagnosis of mosquito bites
Mosquito bites in many cases lead to the Skeeter syndrome. Skeeter syndrome is an allergic reaction of the body to the mosquito’s saliva, characterized by reddish, itchy swellings on the pierced skin area. As of now, there is no simple method of diagnosing mosquito bites. For instance, a doctor cannot conduct a blood test to find if there are any mosquito antibodies in the blood. As a result, the doctor uses visual signs, symptoms and makes an inquiry to determine if the red itchy swellings came about after a mosquito bite.
Signs and symptoms of mosquito bites
The sign of mosquito bites varies from one person to another depending on factors such as age, immune system and level of previous exposure. As such, the signs can either be mild or severe. The following are typical mosquito bite symptoms
- A red swelling that appears immediately after the mosquito bite.
- One or more hard, inflamed red-brown lump(s) that appear a day after the bite.
- Small, tiny itchy blisters instead of the hard bumps.
On rare occasions, children, adults with immune system disorders and those not previously exposed to the mosquito bites, might show the following severe signs.
- Low-grade fever
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Head and body ache
Effects and dangers of mosquito bites
Mosquito bites by themselves are hardly life-threatening. However, they might lead to deadly and life-threatening illnesses and infections. For instance, when a mosquito bites a person and he or she scratches the pierced place, the affected area might get sore or even become septic. Also female mosquitos carry and transmit some diseases from one person to another. When the mosquitos bite and suck blood from an infected person or animal, it obtains a virus or parasite. It then transmits the said virus to another person through its saliva, exposing the person to many infections. The following are some of the diseases transmitted by mosquitos.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent mosquito bites. All a person needs to do is pick the method convenient for him or her.
How to prevent and avoid mosquito bites
1. Avoid mosquito-infested areas
Even though mosquitos are many, they are not located everywhere. Try as much as possible to avoid going to areas where mosquitos breed. As such you should avoid outdoor activities at nighttime since that is the time they are most active.
2. Apply insect repellent
There are many insect repelling solutions available. Some are in retail stores while others such as lemon eucalyptus extracts are available locally. Most of these products are highly effective against mosquitos. Using them, offers protection against mosquitos bites. It is important, however that you read and follow the instructions on the labels to avoid undesirable outcomes.
3. Invest in protective gear and clothing
If staying in an area infested with mosquitos, consider wearing clothes that leave no body part exposed. For example, long-sleeved tops, socks, hand gloves, long pants tucked into the socks, a hat covering the ears and nose and a netting covering your face.
4. Take medication
People react differently to mosquito bites. If you realize that you are highly allergic to the bites, and your skin gets severe reactions each time you get bitten, consider taking preventive medication. There are several over the counter nondrowsy prescriptions you can take to decrease the effects of the bite.
5. Get rid of mosquitos near your home
In most cases the mosquitoes that bite do not come from far. They breed nearby. Get rid of anything supporting their breeding. Drain any stagnant water, clear bushes and shrubs near the house, trim the grass and unclog the roof gutters.
How to reduce the swelling and itching from a mosquito bite
Despite putting vigilant, protective measures to prevent mosquito bites a person can still get bitten. The following are ways of minimizing the swelling and the itch.
1. Wash with water and soap
When you feel irritant as a result of a mosquito bite, do not scratch it despite the urge. Doing so only breaks the skin leading to more itching. Instead, wash the affected part with soap and cool running water.
2. Apply ice or a cool compress
When the body gets exposed to cold, the blood vessels constrict while the nerves numb. Consequently, it reduces swelling and reduces the amount of skin discomfort. Treat the bite by applying ice packs or cold, moist cloth.
3. Use lotion, paste or cream
There are efficient products such as calamine lotion, and Ibuprofen cream, which a person can use to ease the itch. Similarly, one can gently apply a paste formulation of baking powder and water on the swelling.
4. Take antihistamines
An over the counter medication like Benadryl can offer the desired relief against mosquito bite swelling and itching.
Interesting studies related to mosquito bites
Scientists have conducted several research studies in an attempt to understand the mosquito bite phenomenon. Most of these studies try to explain why some people seem to attract more bites than others. For instance, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine laboratory study of 19 pairs of fraternal twins and 18 pairs of identical twins investigates the role of genetics to mosquito bites. The Limburger cheese and the Lactic acid experiments, on the other hand, explains why sweat and smelly feet are mosquito attractants. Last but not least is the Sudan study that explains why mosquitos find pregnant women attractive.