- Mosquito-Borne Illness
- What Is a Mosquito Bite?
How many people get sick from mosquito bites every year?
Apart from the gnat, the mosquito is quite possibly one of the most irritating insects. Mosquitoes fly from host to host, silently taking your blood from you as you go about your business. Most of the time, you don’t know you’ve been bitten until you begin to itch.
Mosquitoes cause almost 700 million illnesses and close to 1 million deaths in the world every year. There is no data that can tell us how many mosquito bites there are in a year, but it is probably very high. Mosquitoes are a nuisance as well as a disease carrier. Their bite causes a very itchy reaction in our bodies.
What is a mosquito bite?
A mosquito bite is a site where the female mosquito sinks its proboscis, or needle, into your skin. The insect injects saliva into your skin as it drinks your blood. This saliva has proteins and an anticoagulant. This agent keeps your blood from clotting, allowing the mosquito to drink its fill.
As your body reacts to the saliva, you feel an itch. Like most people, you are allergic to the mosquito’s anticoagulant. Your body sends white blood cells to fight the foreign proteins, causing your itch.
When you’re bit by a mosquito, you rarely feel it because their proboscis is so tiny. Most people experience the following symptoms when they’re bitten:
- Itching in the area of the bite
- A bump that swells and turns red
Together with people with an immune disorder and children, someone that is bitten by a type of mosquito they’ve never been bitten by before may experience these more severe symptoms:
Mosquito bites are caused by a bite from any of the 200 known mosquito species in the U.S.
Who can get bitten by a mosquito
Anyone may be bitten by a mosquito. Bites typically occur outside, but once a mosquito is in your home it will probably find a way to bite you.
Fertilized mosquito eggs remain dormant until they are activated by water and quickly hatch. This is why if you go outside the day after it rains, you’ll notice more mosquitos than if it was dry. If you live near a large body of water or in a humid climate, the chances are high that you will get bitten by a mosquito.
Mosquitoes love to lay eggs just above the water line in anything that holds water. Certain species of mosquitoes are known to prefer laying eggs in plastic or metal containers. Once these fill with water, the eggs hatch.
Diagnosing mosquito bites
You typically don’t need to see a doctor to know that a mosquito has bitten you. You’ll usually notice an itch well after you’ve been bitten. When you look at it, it’s a red bump.
You might experience an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite. If you do, see your doctor. They can test your blood to see if you’ve been infected by one of the diseases that a few of the species carry.
Treatments for mosquito bites
Most of the time, the itchiness from your mosquito bite will go away within a few days. However, if it doesn’t, your doctor can prescribe some topical or oral medications that will help.
One of the most effective means of reducing the itch caused by a mosquito bite is an antihistamine. Antihistamines work because the body releases histamines to get rid of something that doesn’t belong. Taking an antihistamine prevents these from being released. Your doctor might also give you some hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to help with the itching.
Treating mosquito bites is generally the same at home as it is if you see a doctor. You can purchase antihistamines and calamine lotion over-the-counter. Both can reduce the itchiness you feel from mosquito bites.
Unless you have a severe reaction to a mosquito bite that leads to another condition, there should be no need for surgery after a bite. See your healthcare professional immediately if you experience serious symptoms following a bite.
Complications from mosquito bites
Scratching a mosquito bite until it bleeds can cause an infection because it lets bacteria in. Only a few mosquito species carry diseases that will cause health problems in humans. If you’re bitten by one of the species that carry diseases, you can be infected with one of the following:
- Dengue fever
- West Nile virus
- Zika virus
- Chikunguya virus, which causes fever and joint pain.
These are all rare diseases in the U.S., but they can be contracted when traveling overseas. If you suspect you have acquired one of them, see a doctor immediately.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Dermatology Association: "Hives: Overview."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Mosquitos in the United States."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Zika, Mosquitos, and Standing Water."
Mayo Clinic: "Mosquito bites."
Smithsonian Science Education Center: "Why do Mosquito Bites Itch? The Science of Summer."
University of Washington News: "When mosquitoes bite, take antihistamines for relief."
World Mosquito Program: "Mosquito-borne diseases."
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