With warm weather comes cookouts, beach days, camping trips… and lots and lots of mosquitoes. If you’ve never been bitten by one of these pesky pests, you can consider yourself part of the lucky minority.
Mosquito bites are itchy, uncomfortable, and can spread diseases to humans and animals. It’s no surprise that the mosquito repellent market is estimated at 969.6 million dollars and growing, especially as global temperatures gradually increase and create more favorable conditions for these insects.
But what exactly makes an ordinary mosquito bite so painful and unbearably itchy? It’s not just the “poke” but what comes with it.
Why Mosquito Bites Itch So Badly
First, we need to get one mosquito fact straight: only female mosquitoes partake in blood meals because they need the nutrients to make eggs. When egg production isn’t necessary, females will go back to the normal mosquito diet of nectar and plant honeydew.
When a female mosquito bites you, she pierces your skin with a mouthpart called the proboscis, which she uses to feed on your blood. While she feeds, the saliva from her proboscis gets injected into your skin. Human bodies have a natural reaction to mosquito saliva and create an itchy bump in response.
If saliva was not part of the equation, a mosquito bite would probably still hurt, but it wouldn’t be nearly as itchy or uncomfortable. The severity of the skin’s reaction varies from person to person.
Severe Reactions to Mosquito Bites
Some people are much more likely to have a severe reaction to a mosquito bite than others, such as children or those with immune system disorders. You may also experience an intense reaction if you’re bitten by a mosquito species that has not bitten you before. Severe reactions to mosquito bites can include excessive swelling and redness, hives, swollen lymph nodes, or a low-grade fever.
Tips to Relieve Itching from Mosquito Bites
If you scratch at your mosquito bites, it increases the chances of them becoming infected. Relieve itching and prevent infection by:
- Washing the bite with soap and water
- Applying an ice pack to the bite for 10-minute intervals
- Applying over-the-counter anti-itch or antihistamine creams as directed by the instructions or a healthcare provider
If the bite feels hot or if a red streak spreads from the bite, consult a healthcare provider.