Mosquitoes might be small, but they can pack quite a punch. Most of the time, a mosquito bite causes a harmless allergic reaction that is more annoying than dangerous.
Unfortunately, not every mosquito bite is completely harmless. This article covers the types of reactions you might develop when bitten by a mosquito and common remedies to put an end to hours of scratching.
What Are the Reactions to a Mosquito Bite?
Believe it or not, a mosquito’s main diet is nectar, not blood. You may see male mosquitoes harmlessly flying around still bodies of water, such as swamps, creeks, and lakes. This is a mosquito’s prime breeding ground. These spots also attract females, the mosquito responsible for hours of endless scratching. In addition to nectar, female mosquitoes need a regular diet of blood to reproduce.
When she helps herself to your blood, she also injects her saliva that contains an anticoagulant. This liquid causes mosquito bite reactions, including mild and severe allergic reactions, and the contraction of bloodborne diseases.
1. Mild Allergic Reactions
A mild allergic reaction is a common and fairly harmless effect. Symptoms of this reaction include a nearly instantaneous white bump, followed by a small red bump, and itching.
2. Severe Allergic Reactions
You may develop a severe allergic reaction if you have a compromised immune system. Symptoms include irregular swelling around the area of the bite, hives, or swollen lymph nodes. Extremely severe allergic reactions may even produce difficulty breathing.
3. Contraction of Bloodborne Diseases
When the mosquito injects her saliva into your blood, she’s also exposing you to any pathogens she’s encountered, such as yellow fever, West Nile virus, Zika virus, and dengue fever. Most of these diseases share similar onset symptoms, such as fever, headaches, muscle aches, skin rashes, and swollen lymph nodes.
Quickcare or ER
Luckily, most mosquito bites do not require a trip to the doctor’s office. However, you should see your doctor if you notice the following symptoms:
• Severe swelling or hives.
• Difficulty breathing.
• Body aches.
• Severe headaches.
• Red or yellow eyes.
• Swollen lymph nodes.
Diagnosing Mosquito Bite Reactions
What Will Your Doctor Ask?
Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and onset. He/she may ask you about other possible insect bites. Medical caregivers will also need to know about your medical history, such as any other allergies or underlying medical conditions. If your concern is a bloodborne illness, he/she will ask you what countries you have visited recently.
What Will Your Doctor Look for?
Your doctor will perform a visual inspection of the bitten skin area. He/she may look for other symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, hives, or bruising. Moreover, the specialist will check your eyes for discoloration and your skin for rashes. Doctors will also order a blood or urine test to determine which disease you have contracted.
If your symptoms appear to be neurological, medical experts may order a spinal tap to check for white blood cells or an MRI to assess any brain injury or swelling.
What Is Your Doctor Thinking?
Diagnosing an allergic reaction from a mosquito bite is fairly straight-forward since the onset is so quick. However, your doctor will want to establish that your allergic reaction is caused by a mosquito and not something else.
Bloodborne diseases usually show symptoms 3-14 days after you were bitten. Since some diseases are more prevalent in certain regions, your doctor will want to know where you were bitten. He/she can also make an initial guess about your illness based on your symptoms, such as jaundice, red eyes, or neurological issues.
Remedies for Mosquito Bites
Home Care for Mild Reactions
It’s important to clean the bite immediately to avoid further infections. Wash it off with soap and water. Use alcohol or another antiseptic to disinfect the bite.
There are several over-the-counter medicines that can ease the itchiness of a mosquito bite. Topical lotions are the most popular, such as calamine lotion, hydrocortisone, and aloe vera gel. For more extreme reactions, try taking an oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl, Claritin, or Allegra.
Prevention is always the most effective treatment. You can keep the mosquitoes at bay by keeping your lawn trimmed and throwing away any loose containers of water. Apply bug spray to prevent the mosquito from honing in on your scent. Whenever you open your windows, be sure to put a barrier between you and the mosquitoes by using screens.
Severe Allergic Reactions and Bloodborne Diseases
Depending on the strength of your reaction, your doctor may prescribe an EpiPen for future bites. In addition, he/she will treat your swelling with oral antihistamines.
Since most of the diseases mosquitoes pass along are viral, only the symptoms can be treated. Most doctors prescribe pain relievers to assist with the fever and aches. In rare, extreme cases, intravenous fluids may be required.
How Long Will You Be Affected?
Mild and severe reactions usually go away in a few days. However, the scars that develop from scratching can be permanent. Put a piece of tape or a band-aid on the bite as a reminder of not to scratch.
The duration of blood-borne illness symptoms ranges, but they typically go away within a couple days. However, fatigue and weakness may linger for a few weeks.
Summing It Up
A mosquito’s kiss is anything but sweet. Its saliva contains allergens and possible diseases. If you notice that you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, wash and disinfect it quickly to prevent infections and apply an antihistamine to help with the itching. If everything else fails, and you notice a severe reaction to a mosquito bite, be sure to visit your doctor quickly so you can get back to enjoying the summer festivities.