Mosquito Bites

Mosquitoes are vectors of malaria, encephalitis and yellow and dengue fevers. Their bite can also cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Image of a Mosquito Biting a Human

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. Males do not bite and feed on blood. Instead, they get their energy from plant nectars and other sweet substances found in their habitat.

After puncturing the skin with their mouthparts and feeding on blood, mosquitoes leave hard, itchy bumps. In the blood-feeding process, mosquitoes inject saliva into their host which creates the reactions that cause bite symptoms. Most mosquito bites are harmless and the symptoms subside in a few days. Some discomforting symptoms include swelling of the bite site, soreness, and bleeding. While mosquitoes are an itchy, uncomfortable nuisance, the important problem arising from mosquito bites is transmission of viral or parasitic diseases.

Symptoms & Reactions
Many mosquito species are such stealthy biters that most people never notice their first mosquito bites. Other species are ferocious biters whose bite is moderately painful. The symptoms of mosquito bites include:

  • A puffy, white bump appearing a few minutes after the bite often with a small red dot in the middle of the bump
  • A hard, reddish bump, or bumps, that shows up about a day after a bite
  • Swelling around the bites
  • Small blisters instead of hard bumps
  • Dark spots that look like bruises

In children and people with immune system disorders, mosquito bite symptoms may include:

  • A large area of swelling and redness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Hives
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache

Always seek the advice and assistance of a physician when dealing with mosquito bites.

Allergies
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.

Risks Associated With Infections
As with most insect and spider bites, the risk of secondary bacteria infection exists. In addition, there is a risk of disease transmission from mosquito bites.

How To Identify Bite On Pets
Excessive scratching and minor swelling may be some of the indications of mosquito bites on pets. Much like people, animals may experience allergic reactions to mosquito bites caused by allergic compounds in the mosquito’s saliva.

Repellents
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.

Bite Treatment
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.

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