Mosquito Bites: Symptoms, Treatment, And Prevention

Mosquito Bites: Symptoms, Treatment, And Prevention

Mosquito bites are small, raised lumps on the skin that happen when female mosquitoes feed on human blood. These tiny, flying insects are called vectors, and they can transmit diseases between animals and humans through their bites.

During the summer, mosquitoes can be a real nuisance, and they can be found all over America and many other places.

Their bites can carry various diseases like West Nile virus, dengue fever, Zika, and more. Apart from the potential health risks, their bites leave itchy and inflamed red welts on the skin.

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other biting bugs has significantly increased between 2004 and 2016.

However, understanding their habits, habitats, and feeding times can help you avoid getting bitten.

What Exactly Are Mosquito Bites?

Mosquito Bites: Symptoms, Treatment, And Prevention

Mosquito bites are those small, raised lumps on your skin that appear after a female mosquito feeds on your blood. Most of the time, these bumps disappear on their own within a few days.

But some people may experience more severe reactions, especially children, leading to what’s known as skeeter syndrome.

The real concern with mosquito bites is their potential for transmitting serious illnesses. Infected mosquitoes can spread dangerous viruses like:

  • West Nile virus
  • Zika virus
  • malaria,
  • viruses causing yellow fever and certain brain infections.

While most mosquito bites cause only temporary discomfort, it’s crucial to recognize the dangers they pose due to disease transmission.

Mosquitoes are flying insects with six legs and long mouthparts. Interestingly, only female mosquitoes feed on blood, while male mosquitoes solely consume nectar. 

Different types of mosquitoes, such as Aedes, Culex, and Anopheles, can be found in different parts of the world.

Why Mosquito Bites are Dangerous

Mosquitoes, those tiny bloodsuckers, may seem like just a nuisance, but they pose a serious threat to humans.

With hundreds of thousands of people dying each year worldwide from mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile, malaria, dengue, and Zika, scientists are now on a mission to unravel the secrets behind these deadly bites.

Male mosquitoes are harmless, but it’s the female mosquitoes that feed on our blood to nurture their eggs.

Unfortunately, during this process, they can transmit viruses and parasites responsible for various diseases.

How Do Mosquitoes Bite?

When a female mosquito decides to bite, she lands and uses her labella to find the perfect spot on the skin.

Once she’s identified the right location, she inserts her fascicle into the skin and releases saliva through the hypopharynx.

The labrum then searches for a blood vessel, and when one is found, the hypopharynx forms a tube to draw blood into the mosquito’s abdomen.

Within the mosquito, the blood undergoes filtering, separating water from red blood cells. The water is expelled from the mosquito’s rear end, allowing her to extract more nutrients from the blood.

In fact, this filtration process enables a mosquito to obtain five to ten times more nutrients than unfiltered blood.

Here’s a fascinating fact about Mosquito bites:

Inside a mosquito’s stomach, there’s a nerve that signals when it’s full. If this nerve were to shut down, the mosquito would keep drinking and eventually burst from the pressure.

However, the myth that a mosquito can explode by flexing a muscle to trap its proboscis is entirely false and has been scientifically debunked.

Understanding the Six-Needle Feeding System

Researchers have discovered that the mosquito’s mouth, also known as a proboscis, is not a single spear but a complex system of six thin, needle-like mouthparts known as stylets.

These stylets skillfully pierce the skin, locate blood vessels, and allow the mosquito to draw blood effortlessly.

Mosquitoes have more than 150 receptors on their antennae and proboscis, helping them detect their victims and find suitable breeding grounds.

Why Mosquitoes Get Attracted To Humans

Mosquitoes are attracted to humans for several reasons. For instance, malaria-causing Anopheles mosquitoes track the carbon dioxide we exhale while we sleep. 

As they approach, they detect body heat and volatile fatty acids emitted from our skin.

Why some people get bitten more often than others remains uncertain. The volatile fatty acids produced by our skin vary from person to person, making some individuals more appealing to mosquitoes than others.

The Anatomy Of A Mosquito Bite

Mosquito Bites: Symptoms, Treatment, And Prevention Credit: Josh Cassidy/KQED

When a female mosquito bites, it deploys a flexible sheath that holds the six needle-like parts in place. Two of these needles, known as maxillae, act like tiny saws, making the bite nearly imperceptible.

Scientists have recently found that receptors on the tip of one needle, called the labrum, respond to chemicals in our blood, guiding the mosquito towards a blood vessel.

As a female mosquito consumes blood, she separates the nutritious red blood cells from the fluid and excretes the water. This process enables her to ingest five to ten times more blood than she otherwise could.

The final needle, called the hypopharynx, injects mosquito saliva into the victim. The saliva contains substances that prevent blood from clotting, aiding in the mosquito’s feeding process.

Challenging Intricate Anatomy Of A Mosquito Bite

Understanding the intricate anatomy of a mosquito bite has been a challenging task for scientists.

However, with advanced dissection techniques and genetic analysis, researchers like Young-Moo Choo have made significant progress, hoping their discoveries might lead to new repellent developments in the future.

By gaining insights into the mosquito’s feeding system, scientists aim to develop better strategies to combat mosquito-borne diseases and protect millions of lives worldwide.

Common Locations For Mosquito Bites On The Body

Some studies have shown that the types and amounts of bacteria on our skin can influence how attractive we are to mosquitoes.

In 2011, researchers discovered that having high quantities of specific bacteria made our skin more appealing to mosquitoes.

However, it was surprising to find that having a lot of bacteria from various species seemed to make the skin less attractive to mosquitoes.

This could explain why mosquitoes tend to bite our ankles and feet more frequently, as these areas naturally host more diverse and abundant bacterial colonies.

What Causes Itching from Mosquito Bites?

When a mosquito bites you, it releases its saliva into your blood. This saliva is seen as an allergen by your body, triggering your immune system.

To combat the allergen, your body releases a chemical called histamine into the bitten area.

Histamine is responsible for the itching and swelling of mosquito bites. Many individuals have an allergy to mosquito bites.

While some people are familiar with the itchiness caused by mosquito bites, others may not even notice when they are bitten.

Certain adults may show no reaction to mosquito bites whatsoever. Adults who are frequently exposed to the same types of mosquitoes can build some resistance to the proteins in the saliva, leading to fewer immune system responses and less itching.

However, individuals traveling to new places and encountering different mosquito species are more likely to experience itchy reactions.

The Importance Of Scratching And Why It Brings Relief

Scratching mosquito bites can bring a sense of relief. When we scratch, our body signals the brain about the pain, and the brain releases a chemical called serotonin, which temporarily eases the pain and itching.

However, the same serotonin also activates more neurons that communicate itch signals to the brain.

Some believe that the neurons responsible for both pain and itching might be the same, and the intensity of the sensation determines whether it feels like pain or an itch. 

Pain triggers a reflexive action to withdraw, while an itch grabs our attention to the feeling.

On the other hand, another theory suggests that there are different nerve cells for pain and itch sensations.

In this case, serotonin from pain-sensing neurons might crossover and stimulate the nerve cells associated with itchiness.

The Risks of Excessive Scratching of Mosquito Bites

When a mosquito bites you, it injects saliva into your skin. This saliva contains irritating substances that cause your skin to react.

As a result, you get a red bump and feel itchy at the bite site. This is a natural response from your body.

The red bump appears soon after the bite, and the itchiness may take about 24 to 36 hours to reach its peak.

In most cases, mosquito bites are just annoying and cause minor irritation that goes away on its own within a few days. However, it’s crucial to resist scratching the mosquito bite during this period. Scratching can raise the risk of the bite getting infected.

6 Types Of Diseases Spread By Mosquito Bites

1. Malaria

Malaria is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting. It can be a life-threatening disease.

2. Dengue

Dengue, present in Africa, North and South America, Asia, and Europe, is a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Its symptoms resemble the flu, along with fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, and nausea.

3. Yellow fever

Yellow fever, found in Africa and Latin America, is a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Its symptoms consist of fever, headache, muscle and back pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Yellow fever can be fatal.

 4. Chikungunya

Chikungunya is a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and can be found in Africa, North and South America, Asia, Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. Its symptoms include fever, joint and muscle pain, headache, nausea, tiredness, and a rash.

 5. Zika

Zika, found in Africa, North and South America, Asia, and the Pacific region, is a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. 

It can also spread from person to person through sex. Symptoms of Zika include a mild fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, a skin rash, and irritated eyes.

 Zika infection during pregnancy can harm the developing fetus.

6. West Nile virus

The West Nile virus is found in Africa, North America, West Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and is transmitted by the Culex mosquito. 

This virus can be severe and even fatal, with symptoms such as headache, fever, stiff neck, confusion, coma, convulsions, and muscle weakness.

Who Is Likely To Get Bitten By Mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes can bite anyone, but certain factors may increase the chances of mosquito bites. These factors include:

  1. Wearing dark-colored clothes.
  2. Using perfume.
  3. Blood type.
  4. Body temperature.
  5. Visiting areas with mosquito-transmitted diseases.
  6. Being near stagnant water

What Attracts Mosquitoes To Humans?

A study recently published in the journal Nature on May 4 revealed that female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have a unique pathway in their brains, referred to as the “human glomerulus,” that becomes active when they detect humans.

This glomerulus is particularly responsive to two volatile components found in human sebum, which is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in our skin. These components are called decanal and undecanal.

Ae. aegypti is known for spreading dangerous diseases like dengue, Zika, and yellow fever. Interestingly, when given a choice, these mosquitoes prefer the scent of humans over other animals.

Although they can distinguish between human and animal hosts to some extent, the specific odors and neuronal pathways involved were previously unknown.

According to Marcus Stensmyr, researchers have now succeeded in identifying a specific circuit that detects human volatile substances.

This circuit remains inactive when mosquitoes are exposed to animal scents. The study has been commended for its technical excellence in achieving these findings.

Where Do You Find Mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes are commonly found near water. They lay their eggs in shallow, still water. The eggs are usually found in places like marshes, ponds, lakes, kids’ pools, inside tires, birdbaths, and other containers with shallow water.

Why Do Mosquitoes Bite People?

Mosquitoes bite and suck blood to reproduce. Male mosquitoes feed on flower nectar, while female mosquitoes consume both flower nectar and blood. The females require protein from the blood to develop their eggs.

What Occurs When A Mosquito Bites You?

Mosquitoes have a long mouthpart called a proboscis that extends beyond their heads. It looks like a tiny needle.

When a mosquito bites you, it uses this mouthpart to pierce your skin, suck your blood, and release saliva into your bloodstream.

Why Do Mosquito Bites Cause Itching?

When a mosquito injects saliva into your bloodstream, your body identifies it as an allergen. In response, your immune system releases a chemical called histamine to remove the allergen from your body.

Histamine is what causes the itching and swelling of mosquito bites. Many people have an allergy to mosquito bites.

How Do Mosquitoes Spread Diseases?

Mosquitoes spread diseases through their bites. They are known as vectors, which means they carry diseases between animals and humans.

Vectors often transmit infections through the blood. Many of these creatures, including mosquitoes, are bloodsuckers. Other vectors include ticks, fleas, and sandflies.

When a mosquito bites, it not only suckers blood but also secretes saliva into your bloodstream. If the mosquito is infected with a disease from feeding on a person or animal, it can pass on the infection when it bites someone else.

Mosquitoes often practice sip feeding, which means they take multiple small meals from various sources. Unfortunately, this exposes more people to potential infections.

Mosquito Bites: Symptoms and Causes

What Happens When a Mosquito Bites You?

When a female mosquito bites, it creates a small, raised bump on your skin. Sometimes, this bump changes colors, and you may notice a small dark spot at the center, indicating the site of the bite.

The Reason Behind Mosquito Bites

Mosquito bites are caused by female mosquitoes, as male mosquitoes do not bite. The female mosquito feeds on blood as part of her diet, leading to irritation and the formation of a circular bump on the skin.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Mosquito Bites

The symptoms of mosquito bites can vary. In cases where the mosquito carries a disease or triggers an allergic reaction, the symptoms may be more severe.

Common Symptoms Include:

  • Itchy and irritated skin
  • A raised, circular bump at the site of the mosquito bite.

More Severe Symptoms Can Include:

  • Allergic reactions such as hives, a swollen throat, faintness, and wheezing
  • Infection from a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which may cause fever, headaches, body aches, rashes, nausea, eye irritation, and tiredness. Various diseases can accompany these symptoms.

Understanding the symptoms and causes of mosquito bites is essential for taking appropriate precautions and seeking timely medical attention if necessary.

Management and Treatment of Mosquito Bites

How to Treat Mosquito Bites:

Usually, mosquito bites do not require treatment. To ease the itching and discomfort, you can use topical creams made for mosquito bites.

However, if you experience more severe symptoms like an allergic reaction, fever, headache, or body aches after a bite, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider.

Similarly, if you have recently been to a place where mosquito-spread infections are common and notice symptoms, seek medical attention.

Treatment will vary depending on the type and severity of the infection.

Preventing Itching from Mosquito Bites:

Avoid scratching mosquito bites to prevent breaking the skin and risking infection. If your skin accidentally breaks, keep the area clean by washing it with soap and water, and cover the bite with a bandage.

If you suspect an infected mosquito bite, consult your healthcare provider.

Remedies to Relieve Mosquito Bite Itching:

Mosquito bites typically last a few days. There are various over-the-counter products and home remedies that can help alleviate itching.

While many home remedies are safe for most people, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider before trying any new remedies, as some individuals may be prone to allergic reactions.

Here are some effective options to soothe mosquito bites:

1. Aloe Vera

The gel from aloe vera leaves contains salicylic acid, which provides relief from itching and pain. You can directly apply aloe vera gel to the mosquito bite.

2. Hydrocortisone

This corticosteroid, mixed with an anesthetic pain reliever, can effectively relieve itching and swelling. Apply it directly to the mosquito bite as a cream or ointment.

3. Honey

Honey has properties that relieve itching and pain, thanks to the enzyme catalase.

Apply a thin layer of unprocessed honey on the mosquito bites, and you can cover them with a bandage to avoid stickiness.

4. Ice

Applying ice to the bite area can reduce inflammation, pain, swelling, and itchiness. Place an ice pack covered with a light towel over the bite area for at least 10 minutes.

5. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea contains natural chemicals like terpenoids and flavonoids with antioxidant and antihistamine properties.

Soak a chamomile tea bag in water for at least 20 minutes, then apply it to the mosquito bites for about 10 minutes.

Repeat throughout the day using the same tea bag stored in the refrigerator.

6. Antihistamines

These help counteract the histamine released by your immune system in response to allergens, reducing itchiness.

You can take antihistamines as pills or apply them directly as creams or ointments on the bite area.

7. Oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal, made by grinding oatmeal into a fine powder, can soothe itchy mosquito bites.

Create a paste by mixing oatmeal powder with warm water and apply it generously to cover the bites. After at least 10 minutes, gently wipe off the paste with a clean towel.

Preventing Mosquito Bites

1. Use Mosquito repellent

To shield yourself from mosquitoes, try EPA-approved repellents containing the following ingredients.

These have been proven safe and effective, even for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

  • DEET
  • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone

Tips for Using Mosquito Repellents for  Babies and Children.

When using repellent on your child:

  • Dress them in clothes that cover their arms and legs.
  • Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
  • Always follow the instructions on the label.
  • Avoid using products with OLE or PMD on children under 3.
  • Don’t apply repellent to their hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.
  • For children, spray the repellent on your hands and then apply to their face.

Tips for Everyone Using Mosquito Repellant

Here are some of the general mosquito repellant tips that everyone should try to adopt to prevent mosquito bites.

  • Follow the label’s instructions.
  • Remember to reapply the repellent as directed.
  • Avoid spraying it on the skin under your clothes.
  • If you’re using sunscreen too, apply sunscreen first and then the insect repellent.

Find more information on the EPA website.

Tips to Prevent Mosquitoes Inside and Outside Your Home

  1. Install screens on your windows and doors. Make sure there are no tears or holes to keep mosquitoes outside.
  2. If you have air conditioning, use it to keep your home cool and mosquito-free.
  3. Prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near water sources.
    • Regularly empty and clean items that collect water, like tires, buckets, toys, and flowerpots.
    • Turn over or cover objects that may hold water, such as planters and birdbaths.
    • Dispose of any trash containers that could accumulate water.
  4. Be thorough in checking for containers that may hold water, both inside and outside your home. This will help prevent mosquito breeding grounds.

Natural Remedies And Plants That Repel Mosquitos

The most common question that most people ask is What are the best plants to keep mosquitoes away“? or the plants that repel mosquitoes in the market

To answer this questions that people always ask, I did extensive research and came up with the 15 best plants that naturally repel mosquitoes:

WIth these 15 plants in your garden, you’ll experience a colorful and fragrant display, plus their ability to keep uninvited bugs out.

Most insect-repelling plants do so with their natural fragrances, which keep annoying mosquitoes away and introduce wonderful scents throughout your garden.

If you don’t want to put yourself or your garden under the extreme cautionary mode of chemical bug sprays, then try growing some of these plants to help keep mosquitoes away naturally. Plant these plants in areas where guests will frequent them, such as a seating area or a doorway

Bed Bug Bites vs. Mosquito Bites

How to tell the difference between bed bug bites and mosquito bites?

Both bed bugs and mosquitoes feed on blood and inject saliva into the bloodstream. While their bites may look similar, there are some distinguishing features.

Bed bug bites often show a distinct line or zigzag pattern. Bed bugs are active at night and will bite exposed skin, including the face, hands, arms, feet, and legs, while you sleep.

If you experience bug bites over an extended period, consult your healthcare provider to identify the type of bite.

Flea Bites vs. Mosquito Bites

How to differentiate flea bites from mosquito bites?

Fleas also feed on blood and release saliva into the bloodstream, causing bites that resemble mosquito and bed bug bites.

However, flea bites may appear more random, as fleas move by jumping. If you have dogs, cats, or other outdoor pets, you’re more likely to encounter flea bites.

If you have prolonged bug bite issues, seek advice from your healthcare provider to determine the type of bite..

Dealing with Mosquito Bites

When Is It Necessary To Consult A Healthcare Provider?

If you have an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite or experience symptoms of a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, it’s important to see a healthcare provider.

If you’ve been to an area where mosquito-transmitted diseases are active and you start developing symptoms, it’s also essential to seek medical attention.

Effective Tips to Avoid Mosquito Bites Naturally

  1. Stay indoors during peak mosquito activity, which often occurs at dawn and dusk when humidity is high. These fragile insects prefer such conditions, as their bodies quickly dry out in arid or sunny environments.
  2. Create a mosquito-free zone by exposing yourself to wind or using a fan. Mosquitoes are weak fliers, so a breeze can keep them away.
  3. Wear long pants and shirtsleeves made from tightly woven synthetic fabrics, like those found in athleisure garments, to prevent mosquitoes from reaching your skin.
  4. Use repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to keep mosquitoes at bay. Apply these products to exposed areas, such as ankles, wrists, forehead, elbows, and other bony regions where mosquitoes tend to bite.
  5. Be mindful that mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide and natural body odors like sweat and foot odor. If you’ve been exercising, take a cool shower indoors before heading outside to reduce your attractiveness.

References

  1. Prevent Mosquito Bites
  2. Tips to Prevent Mosquito Bites | US EPA
  3. WATCH: Mosquitoes Use 6 Needles To Suck Your Blood : Shots – Health News : NPR
  4. https://www.everydayhealth.com/bug-bites/mosquito-bites-itch-relief/
  5. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17695-mosquito-bites
  6. Researchers Discover What Attracts Mosquitoes to Humans | The Scientist Magazine®
  7. Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
  8. Effect of Lactic Acid on Odour-Related Host Preference of Yellow Fever Mosquitoes | Chemical Senses | Oxford Academic

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