Mosquitoes — and mosquito bites — are annoying. What's worse, mosquito
bites sometimes transmit serious diseases, such as West Nile virus, malaria and dengue fever. You're most likely to get mosquito bites at dawn or at dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. But, it's not
always possible or desirable to stay indoors during those times. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep mosquitoes away.However, no method is foolproof. If you do get bitten, the telltale signs and symptoms
of mosquito bites — redness, swelling and itching — may not show up for up to two days after you've been bitten. A number of treatments, such as oral antihistamines and topical lotions, can ease the itch
from mosquito bites.
- Typical signs and symptoms of mosquito bites include:
- Soft, initially pale bumps on your skin that can become pink or red
The bump that results from a bite can appear immediately or may take up to two days to appear. If you're highly sensitive to mosquito bites, you may have a much larger area of itching.
are caused by the bite of a female mosquito. The female mosquito feeds off your blood by piercing your skin with her mouth (proboscis). While sucking your blood, she also deposits some of her saliva into
your skin. This saliva contains proteins that remain in your skin. Your immune system may then react to those proteins, resulting in the characteristic itching and bump.
Mosquitoes select their victims by
evaluating scent, exhaled carbon dioxide and the chemicals in a person's sweat. A few factors may put you at greater risk of getting bitten. Although it's not clear why, mosquitoes are more likely to bite:
- People with type O blood
- Overweight people
In addition, mosquitoes are attracted to heat. So, wearing dark colors, which absorb heat, may attract mosquitoes.
Age can affect symptom severity
Adults may become less sensitized to
mosquito bites if bitten many times throughout life. This means adults are less likely to have strong reactions to mosquito bites. Children who haven't been bitten as much are at greater risk of experiencing
symptoms from a mosquito bite.
Infected bites. If you scratch mosquito bites, any resulting sores could become infected.
What you can do
If you know you've been bitten by a
mosquito, wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible. This may help lessen the reaction.
An ice pack may help reduce the swelling, and if the itching is a problem, an over-the-counter
antihistamine may help. Examples include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton), loratadine (Claritin) or cetirizine (Zyrtec).
If you scratch
mosquito bites, you could break your skin, which may lead to a bacterial infection in your skin (cellulitis). Instead of scratching, try applying a hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or a paste. To make a
paste, take about 1 teaspoon (about 5 milliliters) of water and mix with an equal volume of dry meat tenderizer. Apply several times a day until your symptoms subside. A cold pack or baggie filled with
crushed ice may help, too.
For stronger reactions, taking an antihistamine containing diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Tylenol Severe Allergy), chlorpheniramine maleate
(Chlor-Trimeton, Actifed), loratadine (Claritin) or cetirizine (Zyrtec) may ease your body's response.