What makes a mosquito bite and what to do about it

Scratching the mosquito bite causes the pores and skin to change into infected, and the irritation causes the pores and skin to itch. Here’s what makes mosquito bites tickle and what to do about it. (Kanachaifoto, Adobe)

Estimated studying time: 5-6 minutes

ATLANTA — If you’ve got ever been bitten by a mosquito, you know the way irritating their bites may be. The small crimson bumps swell up virtually instantly and change into itchy and solely worsen once you begin scratching. The extra you scratch, the itchier they get – which might make you irritated, painful, and coated in crimson bumps.

Some individuals appear to be mosquito magnets—the bugs flock to them wherever they’re, leaving bite marks on any uncovered flesh—whereas others are comparatively innocent and do not itch.

How do mosquitoes select their prey and how can we repel them? We talked to some consultants and requested for his or her recommendation.

Why do mosquito bites itch?

When a mosquito bites, it pierces the pores and skin utilizing a particular oral machine (proboscis) to suck blood. As the mosquito feeds in your blood, it will ingest your saliva in your pores and skin, in accordance to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Leslie Vosshall, vp and chief scientific officer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, defined that mosquito saliva has an anesthetic-like high quality, so the bugs do not feel the bite till they fly away. It additionally has anti-coagulants, so your blood can circulation with out clotting.

“There are many proteins in mosquito saliva; some are allergens,” Vosshall mentioned.


Our physique acknowledges the mosquito protein as overseas and our immune cells strive to struggle it.

– Leslie Vosshall, Howard Hughes Medical Institute


It’s not simply the itchy bite, it’s the physique’s method of preventing off a overseas mosquito protein. That’s why some individuals have a gentle response to the sting, whereas others are delicate to the overseas protein and might react with giant areas of swelling which can be extra painful.

But there is no such thing as a want to be indignant with male mosquitoes as a result of solely feminine mosquitoes bite. They bite to feed on blood as a result of most feminine mosquitoes can’t lay eggs with out blood.

How do mosquitoes select their prey?

Like many different blood-feeding bugs, mosquitoes can odor us from lengthy distances by the carbon dioxide we emit, which attracts them in within the first place, in accordance to Daniel Markowski, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association.

“Once they really get shut to the host, they use all types of different cues to lastly perceive,” he mentioned. “These embody visible elements reminiscent of shapes, sizes, and colours. Therefore, darkish colours aren’t beneficial in Skeeter habitats, as they stand out particularly by way of background and distinction.”

Other chemical cues “together with breath odors, byproducts of the microbiota on our pores and skin, or different frequent human odors reminiscent of octenol, ammonia, caproic acid or lactic acid” mix with our carbon dioxide to make us kind of engaging to several types of mosquitoes, he added. . .

It’s probably a mixture of human carbon dioxide and different odors that appeal to mosquitoes, mentioned Vosshal, who lately wrote an article titled “The Indestructible Attraction of Mosquitoes to Humans.” But he mentioned the jury continues to be out on what makes one individual extra attracted to a mosquito than one other.

“That’s what we’re engaged on — the quantity and sort of physique odor a individual produces may be a issue,” Vosshall mentioned by way of e-mail. “There are papers suggesting that it’s blood sort, blood sweetness, or gender (females are extra engaging to mosquitoes), however nothing has been confirmed.”

What resists the will to forbid?

The recommendation of most consultants and medical professionals is “do not scratch.” As harsh and typically unrealistic as it sounds, scratching causes pores and skin irritation, and irritation causes pores and skin to itch extra.

“Shaving may cause secondary infections and extend irritation,” Markowski warned, including that in excessive instances, individuals can scar themselves.

Instead, there are dozens of lotions and sprays, in addition to residence treatments and mosquito repellents that promise to relieve itching, so selecting the best one for you may usually be a matter of trial and error.

“In common, all anti-itch lotions are the identical,” Markowski mentioned. “Basically, I like to recommend that should you’re allergic to mosquitoes, chances are you’ll want a cream containing Benadryl or a related antihistamine.”

Vosshall beneficial making use of sizzling water to the bite as quickly as potential.

“Very sizzling water—sizzling sufficient to tolerate, however not sizzling sufficient to burn your self—short-circuits the itch reflex,” she mentioned.

“If you are strolling round and that is not sensible, lidocaine native anesthetic gel may be useful to forestall itching, as can over-the-counter cortisone cream.”

Both consultants mentioned that whereas many individuals favor pure treatments or natural merchandise, they urged warning. There is not any scientific proof that these treatments work, and they might include their very own precautions or uncomfortable side effects.

In truth, one of the best ways to cope with itching is to forestall bites.

“Chemical repellents, together with DEET or picaridin, are secure and efficient,” Vosshall mentioned. Markowski agreed, describing DEET because the “gold normal” registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and authorised by the CDC.

However, he acknowledged that the small space is a concern for some individuals, including: “As with all merchandise, I might suggest treating a small space first and ensuring you have no allergic reactions. Also, learn the label and observe all instructions to be used.”

For extra info on pesticides, the CDC lists EPA-registered choices on its web site, and the EPA web site has a search device to show you how to discover the suitable one.

When to search medical assist

Some individuals can have severe allergic reactions to mosquitoes, however that is truly uncommon, Vosshall mentioned. If you expertise extreme signs reminiscent of hives, problem respiratory, or anaphylaxis, you need to search quick medical consideration.

You must also seek the advice of your physician should you plan to journey to international locations with blood-borne pathogens reminiscent of Zika virus and malaria. Mosquitoes can transmit some illnesses from individual to individual, but when vaccines or preventive remedies can be found, your physician can advise you.

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