Mosquito Bites: everything you need to know
Published: 6 June, 2023 - Updated: 19 September, 2023 | 5'
Mosquito bites, more common during the warm months, become an uncomfortable nuisance that can cause irritation and discomfort on the skin, but also carry potential consequences.
In this article, we have the collaboration of Biologist and Entomology Doctor Juan Carlos Navarro to provide us with complete and detailed information about mosquito bites and how to manage them effectively.
Why do mosquitoes bite me?
As specialist Juan Carlos Navarro indicates, “biting” refers in common jargon to the behavior called hematophagy, which actually means feeding on blood.
There are two fundamental reasons why mosquitoes bite: the first is associated with a reproductive factor, since it is the females that feed on blood because it provides nutrients for the nourishment and development of the eggs.
The second reason comprises two physiological factors: the first is that the human body releases carbon dioxide (CO2) in its respiratory process, which is captured by receptors in the female mosquito’s antennae, acting as a medium-distance attractant. The second factor is that the body emits heat, which is a close-range attractant.
Why do mosquitoes bite at night?
It is precisely these physiological factors that occur in our body during the night that explain the classic example of the night mosquito with that annoying “buzz” in our ears while we try to sleep.
What happens is, therefore, that we attract them due to our CO2 and precisely our ears are the area of the body where we concentrate the most heat when at rest.
Effects of mosquito bites
When a mosquito bites us, it introduces its saliva that contains several types of substances that can cause different reactions depending on each person. Even different mosquito species can cause different reactions.
The reactions to mosquito bites that usually occur, in general, are:
- Local irritation, caused by the toxic substances that the insect injects while feeding, which manifest as inflammatory papules with pain and itching, and resolve spontaneously in hours or days.
- Localized allergic reaction in the form of a rosacea or generalized urticaria, which are produced by sensitization to injected salivary allergens. Severe allergic reactions rarely occur. An allergy to mosquito bites should be clinically diagnosed using skin tests (with extracts or commercial reagents from the whole mosquito, saliva, thorax, or recombinant antigens) and specific serum IgE measurements.
- Prurigo caused by insects, a mechanical trauma to the epidermis that appears in the areas of the bites as intensely itchy wheals, which sometimes contain blood, tissues, and mosquito saliva deposits.
However, as we say, the type of mosquito that bites us and the individual condition also influence.
As specialist Juan Carlos Navarro explains: The effects of the bites of different common mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti), daytime mosquito or (Culex pipiens) common nocturnal mosquito, as well as the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) or the malaria-causing Anopheles have different effects on people depending on each person’s condition.
Tiger Mosquito Bite
The tiger mosquito, very common during the warmer months of summer on the Mediterranean coast, tends to be more aggressive in the bite and in the allergic effect it causes on the skin.
How long does the inflammation last?
As Navarro points out, some people have no reaction at all, however, others have reactions that range from small inflammation or redness that lasts a few minutes, to strong allergic reactions that require the application of antihistamines.
In other people, scratching can increase the allergic effect and the duration of the reaction, as well as staying in a high-temperature or high-humidity environment.
How does a mosquito bite affect children?
The reactions in children are similar to those of adults, although there may be differences due to individual innate conditions, however, allergic effects are usually more common.
Although it has been described that 3% of the population reacts excessively to mosquito bites, allergic reactions are exceptional.1
Flea bite or mosquito bite, how to differentiate them?
Mosquito bites are punctual and visible in different parts of the body. “It is important to note that if the mosquito is bothered and does not finish feeding, it tends to land again and bite in another distant area,” points out Entomology doctor Juan Carlos Navarro.
On the other hand, flea bites usually form rows of three or four bites in a straight line.
Home remedies for bites
When a mosquito bites us, there are certain general recommendations that we can follow:
- Apply cold, either ice or cold compresses on the affected area.
- Wash the skin with water and soap, avoiding breaking papules or vesicles that may have formed.
- Topically apply ingredients that soothe irritation and inflammation.
- Avoid scratching the area as it can lead to secondary infections.
It is important to note that if symptoms persist and signs of infection or other effects occur after 10 days, it is recommended to seek medical attention.
Relieve itching with natural ingredients
If you have already experienced an annoying bite and want to use natural ingredients to relieve irritation, we recommend Biteroll. It is a practical roll-on based on jojoba, lavender, and propolis, natural and organic ingredients that provide relief, comfort, and soothe the skin after contact with insects such as mosquitoes, as well as stinging plants or jellyfish.
This roll-on is suitable for children from 3 years old and adults, and it provides an immediate and long-lasting refreshing effect.
Tips to prevent mosquito bites
By following some recommendations, we can keep mosquitoes away from both outdoor and indoor spaces in our homes.
Here are some tips:
- Pay attention to areas with stagnant water, such as plant saucers, buckets, tubs, pools, toys, etc., as mosquitoes lay their eggs near water. Also, check damp and dark areas such as the lower parts of a garden furniture piece, as mosquitoes rest in this type of environment.
- Check the sealing of doors and windows. In addition to the energy-saving benefits of properly insulating ourselves from the outside climate, good sealing of windows and doors is essential to prevent insects from entering the home. Keep in mind that an adult mosquito can measure between 3 and 6 millimeters.
- Install mosquito nets and fans. Mosquito nets prevent their entry into the home, while the wind from fans makes it more difficult for them to fly, just like with the airflow from air conditioning.
- Plant insect-repellent plants such as Citronella, Geranium, Rosemary, or Mint. The scent of these plants masks other odors that are attractive to insects, preventing them from getting close.
- Use insect repellents, especially those of natural origin such as essential oils that can be used with diffusers. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using Lemon Eucalyptus as an effective repellent against mosquitoes.
- Ardanaz Mansoa, M. P. Insect Bites – Recommendations for treatment and preventive measures: repellents. BOLETÍN DE ACTUALIDAD TERAPÉUTICA. Year 2016 – Vol. 14 – No. 1.
- Batish, D. R. et al. Eucalyptus essential oil as a natural pesticide. Forest Ecology and Management 256 (2008) 2166–2174.
- Ganjewala, D. & R. Luthra. Cymbopogon essential oils: Chemical compositions and bioactivities. International Journal of Essential Oil Therapeutics (2009) 3, 56-65.
- Giraldo D, et al. Human scent guides mosquito thermotaxis and host selection under naturalistic conditions. Curr Biol. Jun 19;33(12):2367-2382.e7 (2023).
- Jobe, N. B. et al. Comparing the Efficiency of Different Carbon Dioxide Sources in Collecting Mosquito Vector Species on the Tempe Campus of Arizona State University. J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2023 Jun 1;39(2):0.
- Lahondère, C. et al. Effect of Temperature on Mosquito Olfaction. Integr Comp Biol. 2023 Jun 12:icad066.
- Manrique López, M. A. et al. Adverse reactions to mosquito bites in school children in Monterrey, Nuevo León. Revista Alergia México 2010;57(3):79-84.
Content developed by the specialists in the Scientific Information area of MARNYS with the collaboration of Biologist and Doctor in Entomology Juan Carlos Navarro. This article is informative and does not replace a specialist’s consultation.
About the Specialist
Dr. Juan Carlos Navarro, Biologist with a mention in Vector Ecology from Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), and a PhD in Molecular Entomology and Epidemiology of Virus Transmitted by Mosquitoes from UCV and UTMB (University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston).