What is a mosquito bite?
Mosquitos are small, parasitical flies that come from the same insect family as the common midges and they have been around since the Jurassic age. They usually prefer warmer, humid environment and can even go into hibernation if temperatures start to plummet This is why mosquitoes are often be found in parts of the world with a suitably hot climate, like Africa, South America and some regions of the USA.
When it comes to these bloodsucking beasties, the females of the species are definitely more deadly than the males. Both male and female mosquitos can sustain themselves on a diet of fruit and plant nectar but the females require blood in order to generate enough protein to reproduce. It’s estimated that female mosquitoes lay at least 300 eggs at a time!1
This is why mosquitos seem innately drawn to warm-blooded humans bumbling about in their environment. We are a rich source of blood and protein, and most of the time we leave ourselves vulnerable to being attacked. Females can pick their victims based on chemical components found in their sweat and when they latch on to your skin, they inject a small amount of their saliva into your system before sucking your blood.
Mosquitoes don’t actually have any teeth so they ingest your blood by using a long mouthpiece, known as a proboscis, to pierce the skin, and then they pull blood by using a capillary – not a pleasant process!
Nevertheless, it is this salvia that they introduce into your bloodstream that triggers a reaction from your immune system. Your body recognises the saliva as a foreign pathogen and induces an immune response, causing the affected area to become inflamed within minutes of being bitten.
In mild cases, this can merely cause a blemish to form but in more serious instances, mosquitoes can transmit life threatening diseases like malaria through their bite alone.
What does it look like?
A mosquito bite has certain characteristics that can distinguish it from other insect bites. If you are bitten by a mosquito, then you will start to manifest visible symptoms within minutes, with a swollen, pale lump appearing in the affected area, sometimes with a small red dot in the centre of the inflammation.
Over the next couple of days this bump will start to redden, harden and become more pronounced, with the surrounding skin becoming more swollen and bloated. Small fluid filled blisters may even start to appear, as well as dark pustules that resemble bruising.
In normal circumstances these symptoms can be treated successfully, however, problems can present themselves in those that have a weakened or immature immune system. In children, for example, the appearance of mosquito bites can be considerably worse, with hives breaking out over the affected area and the swelling becoming more intense. This is commonly known as ‘skeeter syndrome.’
However, in those with an impaired immune system, the appearance of the bite can vary as well. If you have an allergic reaction to the bite, you may find that there is bruising, sometimes accompanied by more internal symptoms like a fever or lymphangitis. If you want to learn more about the diverse symptoms that a mosquito bite can produce, please check out my article on mosquito bite symptoms.
If you notice that your bite is becoming worse or more agitated, you should seek medical attention immediately as the parasites are known to spread dangerous diseases with their saliva.
How can it be avoided?
Mosquitoes are small and often mistaken for other annoying insects like gnats or flies. They are good at what they do though, being quick and agile, so the chances are you will not even realise you have been bitten until the symptoms start to manifest on the surface of your skin.
Despite their obvious advantage, if you know that you will be entering an environment where mosquitoes are a known pest, you can take certain steps to prevent them from feasting on your blood. I will discuss these methods in more detail in my next blog, ‘Top 10 tips to prevent mosquito bites.'