You know as well as I do that mosquito bites suck! The constant itching and scratching can be unbearable at times, and a complete annoyance!
Luckily for us, there are several ways to relieve ourselves of this pesky situation that continues to plague us during our outdoor adventures.
In this article, I’ll be informing you of everything you need to know about mosquito bites.
Mosquito Habits: What Attracts A Mosquito?
There are numerous factors that play a significant role in why you keep getting bit by mosquitos. You’ve probably heard your friend say “Mosquitos love me!” Although you may be a great person, the mosquito doesn’t know that; what they care about is the quality of your blood.
// Fact: The blood isn’t for the mosquito herself; it’s for the eggs that she carries. //
With knowledge of this fact, you can guess that the mother is only trying to feed her babies, but annoyingly at your expense; and if you have nice fatty blood, you will be a prime buffet. How a mosquito picks its target comes down to two attributes: physiology and diet.
Your body has over 400 chemical compounds that a mosquito can pick up on. They love musky scents and odors made of bacteria, like sweat, that lives on your skin, which is how they know how to find you.
Your diet plays a major role because what you ingest will basically cook inside of your 98 degree body, and the scent will seep out from your pores. Blood is also a significant protein source for a mosquito and her eggs, which is the main reason as to why they siphon it.
So if you’re eating lots of vegetation, you’ll get bit way less; but if you eat lots of meat and dairy, the fat content in your blood will increase, the mosquito will sense it, and will want to enjoy it too, just as you did.
How Do Mosquitos Bite?
A mosquito will use its six needle-like mouth parts, collectively called the proboscis, to extract blood from your body. Each microscopic needle, individually called stylets, has a function, and they are used to search for the sweet spot of the richest blood content.
This search is not done randomly; it’s a slightly disturbing, yet intentional siphon technique that allows them to find the nutrients and fat deposits that lay dormant within your bloodstream.
When a female mosquito picks up your scent and lands on you, a pliable lip-shape sheath begins to roll up and expose the stylets.
The first set of stylets are deemed the mandibles – or the “jaw”- which hold your muscle tissue open; the next set of stylets, called the maxillae, have very small teeth that are used to cut through your skin like a drill. The fifth needle, called the labrum is what pierces your blood vessel.
How does the mosquito strategically find the right vessels? The labrum has receptors at the tip of it that act as a “nose” that can smell the target scent within the vessels. Once connected to the vessel, the labrum will act as a straw, and begin to drink your blood.
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
As your are already familiar with, a mosquito bite is a small bump on your body that you obtain from a mosquito taking a mouth-full of your body. These bumps have been known throughout your entire life to make you scratch as hard as you can in order to get rid of the irritation.
But what is it about this bite that makes it itch? Well, your body attempts to recognize the mosquito’s saliva; which is a crafty technique that is injected into your bloodstream, and used to keep your blood flowing while it feeds, and is meant to keep you unaware of the mosquitos actions.
The saliva is considered a foreign substance, and your body will instantly begin to take action.
Your immune system is triggered to destroy the alien fluid, and releases histamine, which increases blood flow and white blood cell count around the infected area, which is what causes the swelling and inflammation, or the “bump” at the bite site.
The histamine then flows around the affected area, and stimulates the nerves within it; and that is the itchy sensation that you feel. So it isn’t necessarily the bite from the mosquito that causes the itching, but your body working to flush out the intruders’ biological remains!
Tip: Scratching the bite makes it worse, and only increases the itchy feeling.
Can Mosquito Bites Hurt You?
Generally, a mosquito bite will not detrimentally hurt you. Sure, you’ll get bit and begin to itch and scratch, but that’s not a reason to go to the hospital, right? A simple rub down of the infected area, or placing a nail or pin cap into the bump can create instant pleasure and relief.
However, depending on your location, the season, and the species of the mosquito, the bite of one has the capacity to do some real damage to your body. Mosquitos are known to carry many different diseases that can be acute, severe, and can even lead to unexpected fatality.
Within the United States and U.S. territories, mosquitos are quite prominent, especially in subtropical and humid regions like eastern and southern areas of the U.S., and Caribbean islands such as Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Mosquito borne diseases such as Zika, Dengue, West Nile Virus, and the ever popular Malaria are the top illnesses of concern. If you contract one of these, you’ll start to present with flu-like symptoms include headache, nausea, muscle aches, fever, and vomiting.
If left unmanaged, the symptoms can develop into more serious indicators such as bleeding from multiple orifice, vomiting blood, and stomach pains; and in worse case scenarios, can cause brain damage or hemorrhaging.
How To Treat A Mosquito Bite
If you ever contract a mosquito borne disease, it will creep on you slowly, and you probably won’t think much of it until the severe symptoms arrive. By that time, it can be a bit challenging to obtain treatment, so act quickly the moment you start to feel ill.
In any of these cases, you can go to your local hospital and receive supportive care for your symptoms; although, there are no cures once the disease is contracted.
Now, when it comes to treating a simple mosquito bite, there are many remedies and tactics that can be used to relieve yourself of the pesky itchy feeling caused by your body fighting off the mosquito’s fluids.
Ironically, the most effective way to treat a mosquito bite is not to scratch it! Scratching it will further inflame it, and increase the time it will take to reduce the bacteria. If you feel the need to reduce the itchy sensation of the mosquito bite, try one, or multiple of these remedies:
- Take an antihistamine.
- Crushed Ice: cold temperatures can reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Aloe Vera: rub a small amount on the affected area to decrease inflammation.
- Basil: it contains eugenol which can reduce itchiness.
- Witch Hazel: a classic remedy for skin irritations cuts, and surface inflammation.
- Indoor netting is also a great idea; or maybe even an insecticide-treated outdoor net for your backyard.
Also, as the old saying goes “prevention is the best treatment.” So protect your skin when outdoors by wearing pants and long sleeve shirt. You can also apply a mosquito repellent directly onto your body, or within your general residence.
Yes, mosquitos are one of the most nettling insects on this green earth, and we have to accept that. Now that you know how mosquitos operate, and why they bite you, in the end, it comes down to you; and you are now more prepared to handle their bothersome lifestyle.