Mosquitoes are vectors of malaria, encephalitis and yellow and dengue fevers. Their bite can also cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Why Do Mosquitoes Bite?
Female mosquitoes have piercing mouthparts through which they extract the blood of a host. The protein from gathered blood is used in egg production. Male mosquitoes do not extract blood from a host.
Symptoms, Allergies & Reactions
While not particularly painful, the bite of a mosquito can create physiological responses in humans. When a mosquito inserts her proboscis through the skin, her saliva creates a small, red bump. These bumps produce mild to severe itching in many people. Some people may become less sensitive to mosquito saliva through repeated exposure, while others may develop allergic reactions. Symptoms of an allergy include blistering and inflammation, as well as asthma like reactions. Mosquitoes also carry diseases such as yellow and dengue fevers, malaria and encephalitis and are capable of passing them from host to host.
In most cases, a mosquito bite produces a red, itchy bump, which can bleed if scratched. Those with mild reactions to a mosquito bite can take antihistamines to reduce itching and swelling. Consult a physician before taking any new medications. Over time, some individuals develop immunity to the saliva of a mosquito and do not experience any symptoms at all upon being bitten.
People who spend a great deal of time outdoors or already have compromised or weak immune systems are especially susceptible to mosquito allergies. More severe symptoms include blistering rashes, bruises and excessive swelling. In rare cases, a bite victim may experience anaphylaxis, hives or an asthma attack. In the event of a severe allergic reaction to a mosquito bite, a medical professional should be contacted immediately.
When spending time outside, individuals with known or suspected mosquito allergies should cover their skin in khaki or beige clothing, as mosquitoes are not as attracted to these colors. Because mosquitoes may be attracted to certain smells present in soap, shampoos and lotions, these should be used in moderation and unscented varieties may be less attractive. Mosquitoes are most active from dusk until dawn.
If possible, avoid being outside during these times.
The use of insect repellents is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Repellents should not come into contact with the eyes and mouth, and special care should be taken when applying repellent to small children. The use of citronella or insect repellent may be effective in avoiding bites.
After receiving a mosquito bite, a cold compress can be applied to the affected area in order to reduce swelling. Mild antihistamines and anti-itching compounds relieve itching. Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen can also be used. A paste made from baking soda and water may prove effective, as will calamine lotion.
Contact your physician before taking any new medications. If you experience more severe symptoms following a mosquito bite, contact a medical professional immediately.