Bite me!

The moment I see her climbing the wall, I know – she is the one. She is absolutely huge and having trouble moving with a belly full of my blood. She bit my foot mere seconds ago, and for that she must die before she does it again. Freakin mosquitoes!

Since when are mosquitoes allowed in September? Mosquitoes are annoying, miniature, blood-sucking ninjas. They are the bane of my summer outdoorsy existence, because, I am one of those people who get eaten alive within minutes of walking outside after dark. To make matters worse, the fact that only female mosquitoes bite, somehow feels like a betrayal. Doesn’t that go against the Law of Nature’s sisterhood clause? I get it, they need the protein for baby making; I just wish they were more discriminatory.

My newly inflicted bites swell up minutes after the attack – a sign that this is gonna get ugly. The crazy buggy beeotch leaves me with two extremely large welts just above the inside arch of my foot. The desire to scratch is crazy-making and keeps me awake most of the night.

When mosquitoes bite, they puncture our skin with their mouth, then basically dig around under the epidermis until they find blood.  As you might imagine, the digging-with-your-mouth thing gets a little messy, and saliva gets left behind. The bump on the skin that appears after being bitten, is the human body’s reaction to a mosquito’s saliva – a localized allergic reaction. The result is: Big red itchy bumps that last for days.

Mosquito mouth underneath the epidermis - click on image to watch video

Mosquito mouth underneath the epidermis – click on image to watch video

Most mosquito bites are harmless. But some mosquitoes do carry disease. They are most famous for their work with Malaria, but their resume consists of a long list of credits for their contributions including Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, (a cameo appearance in Saturday Night Fever) and a whole slew of Arboviral Encephalitides, including West Nile, which is popular in my neck of the woods.

If you are traveling, check with the CDC to find out what kind of precautions are currently advised for the destinations you plan to visit.

What does it look like?

Standard mosquito bite symptoms include –

– hard itchy red, pink or brownish bumps that appear minutes or days after the bite

– swelling of the surrounding area

– tiny blisters or dark dots that resemble a bruise

Small children and people with compromised immune systems sometimes have increased sensitivity with increased swelling, a reaction called Skitter Syndrome with more uncommon symptoms that include –

– hives

– low-grade fever

– swollen lymph nodes

For more serious symptoms like high fever, headache and body aches – it’s time to call your doctor.

What To Do?

I’ve had patients who believe that itchy mosquito bites were a sign that the mosquito injected them with “venom”.  It sounds silly but, with all the diseases mosquitoes carry, it is easy to understand the confusion. However, if you are feeling otherwise healthy and the worst symptom is an itchy bump, trust that symptomatic treatment (see below) and the passage of time will bring relief.

In fact, the swelling and itching of a mosquito bite are signs that your immune system is working like it should. But, DON’T SCRATCH!  Sure, it feels good for a hot minute; but scratching makes it worse. Scratching the bump is interpreted by the immune system as more irritation, resulting in an increased immune response that results in more itching and swelling. It’s a Catch 22.

Oral treatment

Antihistamines like Benadryl, Zyrtec or Claritin may reduce itching

Topical treatment

Ice packs: to reduce swelling

Cortisone cream or topical Benadryl

Alternative Treatments

Feeling green? Give these natural topical options a try. All of them neutralize, in one way or another, the enzymes that cause itching.

 

Banana peel: Apply the inside of a banana peel to the affected area to stop the itch. It seems the potassium in the peel is magical for itchy insect bites, and eczema too.

Rub the meaty moist side of the peel directly on the affected area or secure it in place for up to an hour.

Baking Soda: Mix one tablespoon baking soda and one tablespoon water together to form a paste. Apply paste to affected area and leave on for 20minutes. Rinse and repeat in 30 minutes if needed.

Vinegar: Apple cider or white vinegar. Soak cotton ball with vinegar and place cotton ball on affected area for 5 minutes. Wait 30 minutes and repeat if needed.

Full disclosure: Banana peel is my weapon of choice. It works, it’s easy and the side effects consist of smelling delicious.

The mosquito munched on me a full four days ago. The itching is gone but I can still see the red dots, although they are much smaller than they were. Thanks Chiquita! They are not my first mosquito bites and they are unlikely to be my last. It is what it is…if only mosquitos sucked out fat instead of blood – a girl can dream, can’t she?