Females are typically the only mosquitoes that feed on blood, and they do it because they need the protein to help develop their eggs. Without it, the eggs don't mature to the point that the female mosquito can lay them for hatching.
Her head consists mainly of two giant compound eyes able to pick up movement and bright colors from long distances. From as far away as 120 feet, she can smell the carbon dioxide you exhale and the lactic acid that gathers on your skin from sweat. A little nearer, and your body heat begins to draw her like the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign at Krispy Kreme.
The mosquito lights on your exposed skin and slides a serrated proboscis into you, searching for a capillary. At the same time, she injects saliva that contains enzymes to dull the pain and keep your blooding from clotting. Left uninterrupted, she will draw blood until her abdomen is full.
Those enzymes are the problem.
Your body doesn't like them because they are foreign invaders, so your mast cells release histamine, a naturally occurring substance which rushes to the site and causes blood vessel to enlarge. Sometimes the body releases too much histamine. The result is mosquito bite swelling, or what's called a “wheal.” The area around the bite rises, turns red and begins to itch.
How much and for how long varies from person to person, but swollen mosquito bites generally are about the size of a dime and last about a day. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic report that, in some people with extreme sensitivities, mosquito bites can swell to the size of grapefruits and linger for days.
And occasionally, there are people who experience anaphylaxis, a severe reaction to mosquito bites. When that happens, the person's throat can swell shut, restricting breathing, the person's skin may break out into hives – itchy red bumps – anywhere on the body, not just at the bite. While rare, the reaction can be life-threatening, according to the Mayo.
WebMD reports that repeated mosquito bites over a lifetime may help people become immune to the saliva, or can have the opposite effect, making a person even more sensitive.
There are a lot suggestions for soothing the discomfort of an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite. Some are common-sense, some medical and some just a little odd. But they all have advocates who swear they work. Among The Suggestions:
These are some of the steps you can take in the hours immediately after a bite. But remember, if you start feeling sick in the days ahead, particularly if you feel flu-like symptoms that include neck stiffness, headache, nausea and fever, then it's possible that mosquito bite left you with something worse than just an itch. Go to the doctor. Period!
The best way to treat a mosquito bite really is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Simple as it sounds, this can be a real challenge, especially during the summer or in warm climates.
Obviously, you'll want to avoid the places where mosquitoes tend to congregate – which is anywhere near water.
If you don't have to be around swamps, marshes, rivers, canals, lakes and ponds, then don't. Otherwise, at least get clear of the water from dusk until a few hours after dark, when the bugs are out hunting for blood meals.
Unless you take certain precautions, you may also have to abandon your own backyard during the evening hours, so you'll need to do some work on your environment:
The bottom line is, there's just no way to guarantee that you'll never feel the sting of a mosquito feeding on your blood. The occasional mosquito bite is inevitable, and that's how it is. But there's no reason you have to suffer.
Hopefully, you can use some of these tips to get a little relief when it happens.
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