Mosquito bites are very common, especially in tropical, humid countries. Usually, a mosquito bite will simply disappear without the need for any medical treatment. However, not everyone can tolerate mosquito bites and some can suffer from severe allergic reactions. These allergic reactions can range from simple itching and redness to even life-threatening complications.
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Kinds of allergic reactions caused by mosquito bites
There are two types of allergic reactions due to mosquito bites.
1) Typical allergic reactions – Typical or normal allergic reactions are localised, cutaneous allergic reactions to a mosquito bite. There is immediate swelling (wheal) and redness in the area. Reactions usually peak at 20 minutes, followed by the forming of an itchy and firm papule. This papule will peak from 24 to 36 hours and will eventually subside in the next 7 days.
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2) Atypical allergic reactions – Experts call it Skeeter syndrome, an Atypical allergic reaction happens when a victim experiences large and localised reactions, followed by fever, with intense reactions developing in just minutes of being bitten.
What causes allergic reactions? Does it happen to everyone?
The allergic reactions come from the saliva of a mosquito. The mouthparts of a female mosquito pierce the skin to suck up blood, and in the process (usually at the end), it also injects its saliva to the skin. The proteins and bacteria in the saliva can stimulate a mild reaction, which leads to redness, skin swelling, and itching.
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Not everyone gets bitten by a mosquito. These insects have the unique capability to select their victim by checking out their scent, chemicals in sweat, and exhaled carbon dioxide. Studies revealed that mosquitoes may prefer certain individuals than others: men, pregnant women, people with blood type O, obese or overweight people, people who have just recently exercised, those with higher levels of uric acid, ammonia and lactic acid and those who have just ingested beer.
Also, experts also shared that mosquitoes are very attracted to heat. Wearing dark-colored clothing will make you more vulnerable to mosquito bites since dark colors can absorb heat. Young children are more at risk of suffering from severe allergic reactions than adults.
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What are the complications and risks of mosquito bites?
The most common complication of mosquito bites is a skin infection. usually resulting from the repeated scratching on the itchy bite. Another complication is having certain types of diseases like dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. The female mosquito gets a parasite or a virus when it bites an infected individual or an infected animal. As it bites you, it can transfer viruses and parasites through saliva. [May: That said, diseases like HIV and AIDS are not transferable via mosquito bites]
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Encephalitis and West Nile viruses originated from the United States. Meanwhile, dengue is common in Southeast Asia, Latin America as well as the Caribbean. In the case of dengue fever, a person who is infected with this condition will have digestive system pains, very high fevers, and bleeding problems.
What can you do when these allergic reactions happen?
If there are severe allergic reactions such as fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, generalised rash, sensitivity to light, muscle weakness, or confusion, take the patient to a hospital at once for immediate medical treatment.
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For mild allergic reactions to mosquito bites such as itching, bruises, lesions, hives, and inflammation of the lymph nodes, simply let the symptoms subside. These will subside in a matter of five to seven hours. You may apply cold compress on the area to reduce swelling, itching, and inflammation. Apply a small towel dipped in cold water or an ice pack. Anti-itch ointments may also help but never apply it on open skin.
How to prevent allergic reactions from mosquito bites
- Wear light-colored clothing when you want to stay outdoors. Use mosquito repellent: lotions, bracelets, and sprays.
- Install window screens and door screens to prevent mosquitoes and other insects from entering your home.
- Remove any standing water and keep your surroundings clean to avoid areas where mosquitoes can breed. Mosquito dunks/bits and also great solutions to get rid of mosquito in ponds.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when working outdoors to avoid mosquito bites.
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Building up your immunity would definitely help to reduce the risk of getting an allergic reaction. And if you got bitten and you know that your skin doesn’t respond well to mosquito bites, definitely try to clean the bitten spot as soon as possible with alcohol swop (or water if no alcohol swop around). There are also mosquito cream products for after bites.
Again, prevention is always better than cure. With so many effective mosquito repellent products readily available in the market (from chemical based to organic), it is very much possible to totally eliminate the chances of getting bitten even at outdoor areas where mosquitoes are densely populated.