How to Treat Mosquito Bites

The mosquito is a flying insect that feeds on blood from vertebrate animals, including humans. There are hundreds of species of mosquitoes, some of them capable of transmitting diseases to man, such as dengue and yellow fever.

Mosquito bites
Mosquito bites

Even mosquito species that are not capable of transmitting diseases can be extremely uncomfortable, as their bites generate an intense local reaction, causing lesions that can scratch for several days.

Once the mosquito has stung you, there are not many effective measures to relieve itching, so prevention of pricks is the best strategy.

Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes

  • Dengue
  • Malaria
  • Yellow fever
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Filariosis (elephantiasis)
  • West Nile fever
  • Rift Valley fever
  • Ross River fever
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • St. Louis Encephalitis
  • La Crosse encephalitis

Mosquito bite

Mosquitoes feed primarily on plant nectar, but females of the species can also feed on animal blood. Mosquitoes do not rely on blood to survive, however, blood is needed in the production and development of their eggs. Most mosquitoes are most active in the morning and late afternoon, when there is less heat, and these times are most likely to get stung.

Mosquitoes are able to recognize odors and show a predilection for some types of people over others. They are usually substances in sweat and skin that attract mosquitoes. One already recognized substance is carbon dioxide. It is not impossible that two people stay in the same place populated by mosquitoes and only one of them suffer stings, or still, one suffers numerous stings and the other only one or two. It is not clear why, but mosquitoes have a predilection for men, obese people, pregnant women and people with blood type O. The hot, sweaty body also seems to attract more mosquitoes.

Before sucking, the mosquitoes inject their own saliva, which presents anticoagulant properties, preventing the coagulation of the blood that will be ingested. It is this saliva that usually causes the allergic reactions typical of mosquito bites. In most cases, the reaction to the bite is small and localized, the symptoms of the mosquito bite being only a small reddish rise in the skin with intense pruritus (itching). Symptoms of the bite usually appear within 20 minutes and may be itching for up to 2 days. The more sensitive a person is to the mosquito's saliva, the more extensive and intense the reaction is to the bite. Over the course of our lives we are gaining resistance to stings, making reactions less intense. It is in children that mosquito bites usually cause more symptoms.

Rarely a mosquito bite can lead to more serious allergic conditions such as anaphylaxis.

In addition to the allergic reactions and the possible transmission of diseases by some species of mosquito, another complication prone to the bite is the secondary infection caused by the act of coarsening the lesions. If the individual scratches the skin with too much force, it can cause lesions, opening doors of entry for the bacteria of the skin towards the interior of the organism. Diabetics, for example, are a risk group for developing skin infections secondary to mosquito bites, such as impetigo, cellulitis or erysipelas.

Prurigo (allergy to mosquito bite)

Prurigo, also called acute simplex prurigo or acute prurigo infantile, is an allergic skin process that usually arises after mosquito bites in allergic persons. Common in children, oestrogens may also occur in adults. The clinical picture is of several lesions similar to the common mosquito bites, very pruritic (itching) and with the development of a tiny bubble in its center. A single bite can trigger multiple lesions, as if the child had been bitten. The lesions can last for up to 1 month.

How to avoid mosquito bites

It is essential to reduce the population and mosquitoes around you. Throw away any kind of standing water that can serve as a reservoir for mosquito eggs. Avoid leaving windows open early in the morning and late afternoon. If the heat is large, use screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering. If the ambient temperature allows, avoid walking around in the late afternoon.

Repellents serve to decrease the attraction of the mosquito to your skin. Give preference to those who have DEET in their formula. DEET has been used for more than 40 years as a repellent and is still the most effective of all. Formulas with DEET 10% may be used in children over 2 years of age. Repellents can be applied to the skin and clothing. DEET 10% gives protection for about 2 hours while DEET 30% does so for up to 5 hours. This repellent should not be administered more than 3 times a day and should be avoided daily and prolonged use of it.

An option for those who prefer natural products is lemon eucalyptus oil, which has similar effectiveness to DEET 10%.

During the 1960's a work showed that consumption of vitamin B1 could produce odors on the skin that would keep the mosquito females away. To date, however, no other scientific work has been published confirming this result, which means that there is no clear evidence that vitamin B1 is effective against mosquito bites

Electronic and ultrasonic devices sold as repellents do not provide scientific proof of their effectiveness. Only insecticide-releasing appliances (liquid or lozenge) are effective indoors, but should be avoided in rooms with infants due to the risk of intoxication.

Electrical devices that emit ultraviolet light and electrocute attracted insects also do not work because they attract far more harmless insects than mosquitoes themselves, and can cause imbalances in the ecosystem if used massively.

How to treat mosquito bites

The mosquito bite in the vast majority of cases does not lead to further complications, however, it can be very troublesome, especially if they are multiple. The most important is to avoid getting itchy often, as the nails can cause skin wounds, facilitating secondary infection by bacteria.

If the itching is very strong, try to place an ice pack on the spot. If it is not enough, it is possible to use some topical substances that relieve the itching. One simple is to mix baking soda with water in order to create a paste. Some alternatives include calamine solution or Caladril cream. Corticosteroid ointments may also be used. If the bites are multiple or there is estroful, the use of oral antihistamines is a solution.

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