Mosquitos are members of the fly family. They’re big enough that most people can easily see them with the naked eye. Males have feathery antennae that help them sense the presence of female mosquitos. Females have less bushy antennae. Males usually live for about a week, while females can live for a few months
Mosquitos live in grass and bushes located close to areas where humans live. Their favorite breeding ground is standing water. They gather in neglected birdbaths, clogged rain gutters, storm drains, pools, ponds, and other bodies of water that aren’t flowing.
Male mosquitos don’t bite humans, but females do. While both of them feed on plant nectar and water, females also need blood in their diet to reproduce. When they bite you, it usually leaves an itchy welt behind. They can also spread diseases between animals and humans, as well as from one human to another.
Female mosquitos have long, tubular mouthparts that allow them to pierce your skin and feed on your blood. When they bite you, they inject saliva into your body while siphoning your blood. Their saliva contains proteins that most people are allergic to. Your immune system springs into action, causing the telltale red bump and accompanying itch of a mosquito bite to form.
Mosquitos choose their human victims based on the scent of carbon dioxide and other chemicals in your perspiration.
Mosquito bites are the itchy bumps that appear after mosquitoes use their mouthparts to puncture your skin and feed on your blood. The bump usually clears up on its own in a few days. Occasionally a mosquito bite causes a large area of swelling, soreness and redness. This type of reaction, most common in children, is sometimes referred to as skeeter syndrome.
Mosquitos may be small and have short lifespans, but they can wreak havoc on human lives. From their itchy bites to the diseases they can carry, mosquitos are often annoying and sometimes downright deadly.
Bites from mosquitoes carrying certain viruses or parasites can cause severe illness. Infected mosquitoes in many parts of the world transmit West Nile virus to humans. Other mosquito-borne infections include yellow fever, malaria dengue and some types of brain infection (encephalitis).
Mosquito bite signs are as noted below:
*A puffy, white and reddish bump that appears a few minutes after the bite
*A hard, itchy, reddish-brown bump, or multiple bumps, appearing a day or so after the bite or bites
*Small blisters instead of hard bumps
*Dark spots that look like bruises
More-severe reactions may be experienced by children, adults not previously exposed to the type of mosquito that bit them, and people with immune system disorders. In these people, mosquito bites sometimes trigger:
*A large area of swelling and redness
*Swollen lymph nodes
Children are more likely to develop a severe reaction than are adults, because many adults have had mosquito bites throughout their lives and become desensitized.
Mosquito bites are caused by female mosquitoes feeding on your blood. Female mosquitoes have a mouthpart made to pierce skin and siphon off blood. Males lack this blood-sucking ability because they don’t produce eggs and so have no need for protein in blood.
As a biting mosquito fills itself with blood, it injects saliva into your skin. Proteins in the saliva trigger a mild immune system reaction that results in the characteristic itching and bump.
Mosquitoes select their victims by evaluating scent, exhaled carbon dioxide and the chemicals in a person’s sweat.
Scratching bites can lead to infection.
Mosquitoes can carry certain diseases, such as West Nile virus, malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. The mosquito obtains a virus or parasite by biting an infected person or animal. Then, when biting you, the mosquito can transfer that virus or parasite to you through its saliva. West Nile and encephalitis viruses are found in the United States. Dengue fever has been reported in several southern states and Hawaii. Other diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever are far more common in tropical areas of the world.
To treat mosquito bites, wash them with soap and warm water. You can also use over-the-counter pain relievers, antihistamines, or topical anti-itch medications to control pain and itching. Applying an ice pack to your skin can also provide relief from itching. If you have a child with itchy mosquito bites, make sure they keep their fingernails short and remind them not to scratch.
It’s rare for anyone to have a severe allergic reaction to a mosquito bite. If you develop body aches, headache, or fever after getting bitten, contact your doctor. These may be symptoms of a severe reaction or mosquito-borne disease.
You can’t prevent mosquito bites entirely, but you can lower your chances of getting bitten. Mosquitos breed in water, so try to avoid having standing water near your home. Empty anything that holds stagnant water. Change the water in your birdbaths once a week, and empty children’s wading pools when they’re not in use.
It’s also important to keep the grass and vegetation near your home well trimmed. Install screens in your windows to keep mosquitos out. And when you’re outside in wooded or grassy areas, wear long sleeves and pants and use insect repellent.
To help prevent mosquito-borne illness, make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you travel to foreign countries. Your doctor may also prescribe oral medications to help prevent malaria or other illnesses.