With the warm weather comes the realization that once again, 'tis the season for mosquito bites.
One minute you’re enjoying cooking out in your backyard, and the next thing you know, you're slapping mosquitoes, and maybe your arm or leg starts to itch from mosquito bites. Fortunately, mosquito bites are mostly harmless, but they're still super annoying and for some people, they are the worst part of summer.
But, it's good to know that the more you know about how to recognize mosquito bites, prevent them, and treat them, the smoother your summer might go.
What does a mosquito bite look like?
Most mosquito bites are red, itchy bumps, though unfortunately, this may not help much at first, as a lot of bites from other insects (fleas, spiders, etc.) look similar.
But, think about context.
If you have been:
- Spending time outdoors, particularly during dawn and dusk hours, when mosquitoes are most active
- Around standing/stagnant bodies of water (backyard pools, ponds, lakes, etc.)
- Walking or hiking through tall grasses, weeds, other foliage
... and you have itchy insect bites now, chances are good that the mosquitoes have been after you.
In addition to obviously itchy bumps, other indicators you’ve been bitten by a mosquito (or mosquitoes) include swelling, blisters, hives, and sometimes dark spots.
Why Do Mosquitoes Bite People?
Female mosquitoes (and only females) bite humans and sometimes animals to feed on our blood. The nutrients in our blood help the females nourish and lay eggs.
The mosquitoes use the sharp tip of their piercing mouthparts (proboscis) to penetrate the skin and draw the blood out. While doing so, mosquitoes inject their saliva, which contains an anticoagulant, to prevent the blood from clotting. This way the insects can then easily withdraw the proboscis out of the skin and fly away. If you don't swat them first.
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
Whenever you get a mosquito bite, your body recognizes the mosquito saliva as a foreign substance, and your immune system goes to work to protect you from the intrusion. This results in your body producing histamine, and the reaction similar to what an allergy might cause, creating a raised, itchy bump on your skin.
The histamine increases your blood flow and white blood cell count around the affected area, causing inflammation and swelling. The itch is caused when a signal goes to your nerves about the bite.
Your body probably didn't respond this way the first time you got bitten by a mosquito, but now your immune response your body has learned after being bitten several times.
Not every mosquito bite will cause the same reaction in your body. Some bites will go completely unnoticed, while others may drive you crazy with the itching for days. Some people may never react to a mosquito bite, while others may become tolerant to mosquito saliva after much exposure to it.
Why Do Some Mosquito Bites Get So Swollen?
Some mosquito bites may flare up something horrific. Some people are particularly allergic to mosquitoes that may end up causing normally harmless mosquito bites to swell up into a welt. The skin may stiffen up and get warm, extending the reaction several inches out from the bite itself.
These types of reactions are most common in children, the elderly, and in individuals with autoimmune issues. Again, every person is different, as is every mosquito (and mosquito bite).
Does Scratching a Mosquito Bite Make It Worse?
The short answer is "yes." Scratching a mosquito bite often makes the itching worse.
Why? Mosquito bites cause a reaction similar to how an allergy may react in your body. When you scratch an inflamed mosquito bite, the inflammation expands, causing more intense itching.
Scratching can also exacerbate the chances of an infection breaking out. If your scratching breaks the skin, the area can become infected quickly, also increasing the itching and lengthening the time it will take to heal.
Resist the temptation to scratch a mosquito bite whenever you can.
How Do You Treat a Mosquito Bite?
The first thing you want to do to treat a mosquito bite is to wash it thoroughly with soap and water (washing frequently to keep exposed skin clean as much as possible when spending time outdoors also helps, as mosquitoes are attracted to your sweat). The following can help relieve the effects of a mosquito bite:
- Apply an ice-pack or apply heat
- Apply calamine lotion, corticosteroid cream, or anti-itch cream
- Apply honey to the bite (but be sure to wash it off before going back outside)
- Apply aloe gel or basil oil--you can also make a paste with water and baking soda that will soothe a mosquito-bitten area
- Take an oatmeal bath
Take over-the-counter antihistamines (follow label directions)
When Should You See a Doctor?
The after-effects of almost all mosquito bites will go away within hours up to a few days. They are virtually harmless, though itchy and annoying.
If you have an allergy to mosquito saliva, you may have a more serious reaction to a mosquito bite, including anaphylactic shock. This kind of shock may manifest itself with:
- Problematic breathing
- Facial swelling
- Large hives
Other symptoms a mosquito bite may cause include:
- Extreme fever
- Joint swelling
When in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of caution by seeking medical attention.
Mosquito Bite Prevention
If you are wanting to prevent mosquito bites as much as possible, try some of these steps:
- Avoid the outdoors, as much as possible, in the early morning and at dusk
- If you do go outdoors during these times, wear long sleeves and long pants
- Use a reliable mosquito repellent on exposed skin
So you've got pesky mosquitoes in your yard, garden, and patio that disrupt your cookouts and summer fun.
Try an effective plant oil-based mosquito control product for spot treatment, like Maggie's Farm Home Bug Spray, Maggie's Farm Flying Insect Killer, or Maggie's Farm Mosquito Fogger. Plants hate mosquitoes and other bugs just as much as you do, and the natural oils they produce to protect themselves are amazingly effective at killing and repelling bugs of all sorts.
For longer term, more thorough coverage, you can treat wider areas of your lawn with effective hose-end plant oil-based pest control products like Maggie's Farm Mosquito & Tick Killer and Maggie's Farm Yard Bug Spray.
An effective plant-oil based DEET-free personal mosquito repellent, like Maggie's Farm Natural Insect Repellent can help you keep mosquitoes away from and off of you and your family members.
Citronella candles and electric mosquito traps can also come in handy in repelling and controlling mosquito populations around your patio and yard. For ornamental water around your yard, you may want to consider using mosquito dunks.
For more on controlling mosquitoes, read the following articles:
Do I Need to Call A Pest Control Professional?
You can do quite a bit yourself to help manage mosquitoes around your home and yard. If you've got an overwhelming mosquito infestation around your home, consider calling a pest control company.
For scientifically-tested, effective mosquito control in your home that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.