Why do mosquito bites itch?
When a mosquito bite breaks the skin, a person’s body recognizes the mosquito’s saliva as a foreign substance. This causes an immune system response, which aims to flush out the intruder.
The swelling around the bite is caused by histamine, which is produced by the immune system.
Histamine increases blood flow and white blood cell count around the affected area, which causes inflammation or swelling.
Mosquito bites itch because histamine also sends a signal to the nerves around the bite.
The first time a person is bitten, their body may not react in this way. The immune response is something that the body learns after being exposed to a foreign substance.
Some people may never react to a bite. Others might become more tolerant to a mosquito’s saliva over time. For many, the reaction remains consistent, and mosquito bites continue to be an annoyance.
Why do mosquitoes bite us?
Mosquitoes bite humans to drink their blood. The nutrients contained in a human’s blood help female mosquitoes to make the eggs they need to reproduce. Only female mosquitoes bite people.
A mosquito uses the sharp tip of its straw-like mouth (proboscis) to pierce a person’s skin. It locates the blood vessel and draws blood up through its mouth.
As it does this, it injects saliva that contains an anticoagulant. This stops the person’s blood from clotting. If the blood were to clot around the mosquito’s mouth, it might get stuck.
Mosquito Bite Allergies & Reactions
Mosquito bites cause a reaction in most people’s bodies, some more severe than others. A slight swell and itchy red bump is the typical reaction. The female mosquito (males don’t need blood meals) injects saliva into your body to thin the blood and prevent coagulating for easier drinking. This mosquito saliva is the source of the mosquito bite reactions. However, some people are more sensitive to and even allergic to the saliva which can heighten the reaction. For instance, babies and small children can have a more swelling and a brighter red reaction due to their young sensitive skin. Bruising can even occur for those with the highest sensitivities.
SYSTEMIC MOSQUITO BITE REACTIONS
Although rare, those with a severe allergy to mosquito bites can experience nausea, hives, vomiting, wheezing, and swelling around the lips and mouth. Fever, asthma, and anaphylactic shock can even occur. Those who may have an allergic reaction to mosquito bites should seek medical care immediately.
Skeeter Syndrome is the name given to the severe local reaction to mosquito bites that occurs for some. Swelling can cause an entire limb to become twice its normal size within hours of being bitten. Sometimes it may take up to 48 hours after being bit by a mosquito for a serious allergic reaction to appear.
Risk factors for mosquito bites and Skeeter syndrome
Mosquitoes appear to prefer certain victims over others, including:
- pregnant women
- people who are overweight or obese
- people with type O blood
- people who have recently exercised
- people who emit higher amounts of uric acid, lactic acid, and ammonia
- people who have recently drunk beer
Also, because mosquitoes are attracted to heat, wearing dark colors may make you more likely to be bitten. This is because dark colors absorb heat. People living in humid, tropical climates or swamplands are also at greater risk for bites.
Some people have a greater risk of an allergic reaction, too, such as younger children. People with allergies to some of the components of mosquito saliva, such as proteins and antimicrobial agents, may also be at a greater risk of developing Skeeter syndrome.
The best way to prevent the illnesses they spread is to avoid mosquito bites.
- Wear light-colored clothing to cover up.
- Put mosquito repellent “bug spray” on your bare skin.
- Get rid of places that water can collect around your home.
- Keep water in pools and landscaping moving.
- Use screens on your windows or a mosquito net when sleeping outdoors.
How to treat mosquito bites
Treating mosquito bites is a relatively easy task and can be done at home, and is similar to how you would treat other insect bites. You can treat mosquito bites by:
- Cleaning the bite with warm soapy water.
- Placing an ice pack on the bite to reduce the swelling
- Taking an antihistamine to help relieve the itchiness.
- Avoid scratching to reduce the risk of infection.
Home remedies for mosquito bites
On top of the usual insect bite treatments, there are also a handful of home remedies you can try, to help treat mosquito bites by reducing the swelling and relieving the itch.
- Toothpaste: The menthol flavor of the toothpaste helps to soothe the bite
- Honey: Honey is a natural antibiotic and will help with the swelling
- Aloe vera: Aloe vera is a natural antiseptic agent and can help reduce the pain, swelling, and itching.
How to get rid of mosquitoes
The best way to prevent mosquito bites is to prevent mosquitoes themselves. Eliminating the source of the problem will drastically reduce the possibility of getting bitten by a mosquito. The following items will also aid in getting rid of mosquitoes:
- Mosquito traps: Installing mosquito traps and zappers will help keep these biting insects away
- Remove standing water: Mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in stagnant water. Eliminating the potential breeding sites from your property will make it less appealing to mosquitoes.
- Professional treatment: Contacting a professional mosquito exterminator is the most effective way to get rid of mosquitoes. The range of mosquito services and solutions they can offer will help keep mosquitoes away, and reduce the risk of mosquito bites.