Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?

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mosquito-bite

A female mosquito gorged with blood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mosquitoes have a big needle nose – called a proboscis – that works perfectly to allow them to land on you and withdraw some blood before quickly taking off in search of their next target.

You may not notice the bite at first because of special enzymes in the mosquito’s saliva that numbs your skin and also keeps your blood from clotting, but soon after the mosquito is done feeding you will have a red bump that itches like crazy! When you are bitten by a mosquito, you have a reaction to the saliva that gets left behind. The saliva causes the body to have a histamine response and the area around the bite gets itchy.

Female mosquitoes are the biters; they use the blood to make eggs. After the mosquito pokes into you and takes some of your blood, the histamine response will last for quite a while. Scratching and irritating the bump around the bite will worsen the inflammation and redness, and elongate the time it takes for the immune system to reduce the swelling.

How to Stop Mosquito Bites from Itching
If you can’t stand the feeling of a mosquito bite, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the annoyance and itchiness of the area around it.

  • Be patient and let it heal – Mosquito bites heal themselves and it will only take longer if you are constantly scratching it and irritating the area. Take steps to get your mind off the bite so you forget it is there and don’t want to keep scratching at it.
  • Clean the area after you notice a bite – If you have a water bottle or baby wipes or something similar when you are bitten, use it to clean the area as soon as possible.
  • Most grocery stores and pharmacies will have a number of different itch creams available to you to buy right off the shelf. Get an antihistamine cream or lotion to help alleviate itching and irritation.

Things You May Not Have Known about Mosquitoes

  • Mosquitoes are most active and energetic a few hours before sunrise and after sunset. When a mosquito is up and buzzing around during the day, it is probably because they were disturbed!
  • You can build up a tolerance to the saliva a mosquito leaves behind when they bite you. Your immune system will develop and you won’t be as itchy and irritated when you get bitten if you have already been through it a few times.
  • Mosquitoes are born and live their first three stages of life in the water. The fourth and final stage is when they are considered an adult and leave the water. During the second phase they feed on algae and microorganisms. Swamps, marshes, and retention ponds are areas where you will notice that there are a lot of mosquitoes. In the third stage of life, a mosquito doesn’t eat. They spend all their time breathing through two tubes by poking up through the top of the water; waiting to transform into an adult. Once they are ready, they come up out of the water and sit in the ground to dry off.
  • There are a number of home remedies that people share to treat mosquito bites and reduce itchiness:
    • Apply a roll on deodorant to the area around the bite. The reason this works is because of the aluminum salts that are components of the antiperspirant.
    • Baking soda and water forms a paste that is said to stop the itchiness of nearly anything.
    • Soak a wash cloth in warm/hot water and hold it against the bite for a little while. This slows the blood flow around the area.
    • Get a bar of soap wet and lathered up, then rub it against the area around the bite. There are soaps and bath kits that are made for chicken pox that do great for reducing itchiness. This is more for those who have a lot of mosquito bites or are having a severe reaction to a bite.
  • Female mosquitoes can live up to eight weeks after they reach adulthood, yet have an average life span of only a couple weeks in the wild. When a male mosquito mates, they only live a few days after.
  • When you breathe and sweat you emit carbon dioxide which is what the female mosquitoes can detect to find blood sources. Mosquitoes can detect you from over 150 feet away!
  • To protect yourself from mosquitoes and other bugs, the only repellent that truly works is DEET. You want to find a spray that has between 20-30% DEET. This is a happy medium for those who are worried about the possible negative side effects that DEET can have on your skin. DEET is a solvent and can actually be used to dissolve plastic, leather, and spandex, and it has also been used as nail polish remover. Not exactly what you want to be putting on your skin!
  • Mosquito larvae require water to survive, even in winter. Yes, even in winter, mosquitoes are out and about. When the temperature drops, the mosquitoes metabolism drops and their body go into a state of development suspension, known as diapause.
  • In the fall, mosquitoes mate and the males die off. Females are the adult mosquitoes that live through the cold months hidden and protected.
  • If you are ever planning a vacation to somewhere near a lake or body of water, realize that you may run into some bad luck and have to deal with mosquitoes. Sometimes the mosquitoes are unbearable and it seems like every single mosquito in the country is confined to the area you are taking your vacation! To prepare for this, make sure you have enough bug repellent. If the mosquitoes are bad, use a repellent with a higher DEET percentage. Mosquitoes can actually fight through the bug repellent if they are really thirsty for blood.

    Also, make sure you cover every part of your exposed skin with mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes can detect the area on your skin that has no repellent. Wear long socks under your jeans and if you really want to protect your legs, use a rubber band to tighten the bottom of your jeans around your shoes.

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