WHY DO MOSQUITO BITES ITCH? STOP SCRATCHING AND FIND OUT
Nothing says summer like the sounds of smacking and scratching. That’s right; it’s mosquito season. There are few things better than relaxing outside on a summer evening. The day is cooling down. There’s a slight breeze taking the edge off what’s left of the heat. Then, out of nowhere, the high-pitched noise that can quickly upset the most relaxing summer sunset. The whine of a mosquito is coming in for a landing.
It’s bad enough that mosquitoes are out for blood, and the fact that their bites result in hours of irritating itching makes them even worse. Undoubtedly, you’ve wondered how to make mosquito bites stop itching. But have you ever asked yourself what it is that makes mosquito bites itch in the first place?
Let’s take a look at why mosquito bites get us scratching, and some ways you can beat the itch.
WHY DO MOSQUITO BITES ITCH?
The first thing a female mosquito (only the female mosquito bites) does when she’s making you her lunch is pierce your skin with her proboscis — or mouthpiece. Then she roots around under your skin to find a blood vessel.
Once she locates what she’s looking for, she starts drawing your blood out. And the force she uses to do this is strong enough to collapse or rupture smaller blood vessels. You probably hate mosquitoes just a little bit more now, right?
Saliva Causes Mosquito Bite Itching
But what causes the mosquito bite to itch is the female mosquito's saliva. Your body has a defense mechanism in place to deal with injured blood vessels. This is a process called coagulation, which shrinks the injured blood vessel and eventually results in a scab if your skin has been pierced.
When the scab is forming, there are all sorts of proteins being released to help your blood clot. The female mosquito isn’t interested in these, and she needs your blood to keep flowing so she can get her fill. So she releases saliva filled with anti-coagulants and other proteins and enzymes.
Humans are Allergic to Mosquito Saliva
Many humans are allergic to the components in the saliva of a female mosquito. And what happens when you’re allergic to something that touches your skin? You start to itch and bumps develop.
HOW TO MAKE MOSQUITO BITES STOP ITCHING
There’s no specific gel or magic pill that’s been created to stop mosquito bites from itching. It just takes time for the sensation to subside. But the Mayo Clinic suggests using hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or an ice pack for immediate relief.
However, there is one definite answer to the question of how to make mosquito bites stop itching, and that’s prevention. Naturally, if you don’t get bitten in the first place, you don’t have to worry about having a reaction to the saliva of a female mosquito.
HOW TO AVOID GETTING BITTEN
In addition to itchy welts, female mosquito bites can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus, Zika virus, malaria and dengue fever. While many of these illnesses are only concerns for travelers, some have cropped up in the United States. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
So how do you prevent mosquito bites? The CDC has a few recommendations.
- Use repellents. In spite of what many people think, the CDC reassures us that repellents containing DEET and Picaridin are safe. You can also use those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or IR3535. However, Consumer Reports indicates that IR3535 products are less effective in repelling the types of mosquitoes that carry Zika.
- Dress to repel. One easy way to keep the female mosquito from biting you is to limit the amount of skin you have exposed. Wear clothing that covers you up, but doesn’t make you too hot in the summer. And don’t forget about socks. Sandals may be stylish, but a mosquito will happily feed on your feet.
- Take precautions at home. Be strategic when it comes to keeping these whiny insects out of your home. Use air conditioning rather than keeping windows and doors open. If you do choose to cool the house with windows — because who can beat a good cross breeze? — make sure you have screens that aren’t filled with holes.
As far as your yard, keep it tidy and limit the amount of standing water you have laying around. Dump out flower pots or buckets after rain and fill in areas prone to puddles. These are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.