What to do after you get bit by a mosquito
To understand the best way to deal with a mosquito bite it is helpful to first appreciate what is going on in our body when bitten. And using the term “bite” isn’t entirely accurate.
Firstly, it is the female mosquito who “bites” as she needs to take a blood meal so she has the protein required to lay eggs. Every time you are bitten by a mosquito you know you just played a role in a birth of 300 or so mosquito eggs (and the resulting larvae). The female lands on your body, having located you by your CO2 plumes, and pierces your skin with her proboscis, formed out of 6 needles with sharp teeth on two of them. These teeth are so sharp that you can’t feel this process as she slices into your skin in search of a blood vessel.
Once under the skin, she releases a vasodilator to keep your blood flowing while she is feeding. For a fascinating look into the process, check out this video. The vasodilator is contained within the saliva of the mosquito, along with all those virus’s we worry about. In other words, once she is under your skin she will “spit” into you, both numbing and dilating the area to ease her meal. The proboscis is very flexible, allowing the mosquito to move around under our skin without having to withdraw and start again. You can watch some incredible footage of this here and here. On average, a mosquito will drink for about 4 minutes, sucking so hard that the blood vessel can collapse or rupture into the surrounding area. Once she has taken her fill she will withdraw and fly away, without you being aware.
In response to the injection of a foreign substance (saliva), our bodies mount an immune response. Histamines are released around the site, causing swelling and that itch that we are all so familiar with. It is thought that our sensitivity to bites decreases over time, which is why children often have much more substantial reactions to bites than adults. There are also people who suffer from “skeeter syndrome”, an exaggerated reaction to mosquito saliva, better understood as a severe allergy to mosquito bites. We have some customers whose children get welts from mosquito bites and use our service to help keep them healthy and playing outside.
So, what can you do? Obviously, your best defense is a good offense. Using Mosquito Joe will keep your yard 95% mosquito resistant. Using a repellent when leaving the house will also reduce your potential for bites and control that mosquito population in your yard by dumping water after rains and keeping you gutters free of debris. Remember water = mosquitoes. Most species come out at dawn and dusk so keep timing in mind when heading outside. As for a “mosquito season”, it is important to remember that mosquitoes will only hibernate when the temperatures remain under 55 degrees for a week, or we have 3 deep freezes in a row. In the 4 years that Mosquito Joe has been treating in NW Houston and South Brazos, we have only had one week where these conditions have been met, meaning mosquitoes are always out.
But let’s talk about what you can do once the bite has happened. In the case of a normal reaction, calamine lotion or a topical anti-itch lotion can help. You can also take an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl or Claritin. If you have children who react more strongly using an ice pack can help with swelling and the itch. Home remedies, including a warm oatmeal bath, can help as well, but garlic and other suggestions won’t do the trick, so stick to simple options.
Mosquito bites can result in complications, from welts and blisters to sepsis. The diseases they carry include malaria, West Nile, Zika and meningitis. If you experience a rash, fever over 101, persistent headache, muscle or joint pain or difficulty breathing, seek medical help. Customers of ours who have West Nile tell us that they never understood the implications of the disease until it was too late. While we are used to mosquito bites, we should never become complacent about the implications they carry.
Mosquito Joe of NW Houston & S Brazos Valley