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 at bay.
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.
Common signs and symptoms
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.
Severe allergic reaction
When to see a doctor
Mosquito bites 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:
In addition, mosquitoes are attracted to heat. So, wearing dark colors, which absorb heat, may attract mosquitoes.
Age can affect symptom severity
Preparing for your appointment
You won't need to see your doctor for a mosquito bite, but if you notice that the redness, swelling or pain is getting worse over time, instead of better, or if you develop a fever or other signs and symptoms of illness you feel might be associated with a mosquito bite, you'll need to visit your primary care physician.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
If you're having symptoms you think might be related to a mosquito bite, some basic questions you might have include:
What you can do in the meantime
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).
Tests and diagnosis
If you have an infection at the site of your bite, your doctor can diagnose this by looking at it. If you've contracted an illness from a mosquito bite, your signs and symptoms are usually enough for your doctor to diagnose the illness, but a blood sample may sometimes be taken to confirm the diagnosis. For some complications, including meningitis or neurological changes that occur after exposure to mosquitoes, additional tests, such as a spinal fluid examination, may be needed.
Lifestyle and home remedies
There's some evidence that taking 75 to 150 milligrams of vitamin B-1 (thiamin) each day during the summer may slightly change your scent and offer some protection from insect bites. However, this hasn't been definitively proved.
To prevent mosquito bites, take steps to reduce the mosquito population around your home. Using insect repellents and protective clothing also can help.
Reducing mosquitoes around your home
To eliminate standing water:
Other methods of controlling mosquitoes may be popular, but their effectiveness is unproved. These methods include:
Common insect repellents include:
Check the labels of insect repellent products to see which chemicals or other ingredients they contain. And be sure to follow the product's application guidelines. When you come indoors, wash your skin and your children's skin with soap and water to remove any remaining repellent.
In addition to these steps, fix any holes you might have in your window or door screens.
Last Updated: 2011-04-30
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