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Facts and tips about mosquito bites

June to August is prime mosquito season and that means itchy, annoying bites. On top of those itchy bites, mosquitoes are also responsible for spreading diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, West Nile virus and the Zika virus.

Below you will read some facts and tips about mosquito bites as well as learn about some mosquito species found in the U.S. and common mosquito-borne diseases associated with these species.

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Why do mosquitoes bite?

Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite? Male mosquitoes do not rely on human blood to develop and only feed on the nectar of flowers. Female mosquitoes bite to engorge themselves on a cocktail of our blood. Our blood is rich in protein and other compounds that female mosquitoes need to help produce and develop their eggs.

There is no limit to the number of mosquito bites one of the insects can inflict. A female mosquito will continue to bite and feed on blood until she is full. After they have consumed enough blood, the mosquito will rest for a couple of days (usually between two to three days) before laying her eggs. Once this is complete she is ready to bite again.

What do mosquito bites look like?

Like most insect bites, mosquito bites come in the form of swollen, red bumps. However, this can vary as different people react to mosquito bites in different ways.

Even though mosquito bites share some similarities in their appearance with other insect bites, there are some differences that can help you identify them. Mosquito bites can appear anywhere on your body, particularly in areas where the skin is exposed, such as arms and legs.

Mosquito bites vs. other bug bites

  • Flea bites vs. mosquito bites - At first glance, flea bites and mosquito bites often look similar to one another. However, flea bites are usually felt immediately and are often found on the feet and lower legs.
  • Bed bug bites vs. mosquito bites - Unlike mosquito bites, bed bug bites usually appear in a line and are usually small and flat.

Why do mosquito bites itch?

Mosquito bites are itchy because of how your body reacts to the mosquito bite itself. The bites swell and itch because your body is having a very mild allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. As the blood vessels around the bitten area begin to swell, the nerves become irritated. To combat the anticoagulant delivered by the mosquito's saliva, your body releases a histamine, making the area around the bite inflamed and itchy.

The mosquito's proboscis is sharp at the end with parts that can quickly pierce the skin. When the mosquito lands, her senses allow her to find just the right spot to pierce the skin and access the blood. The mosquito then injects saliva that prevents clotting and numbs the area so you don't feel the bite, allowing the mosquito to feed undisturbed. When mosquitoes fly away, they leave behind saliva that prevents clotting and anesthetizes the area. This is where your body takes over. It sees the mosquito saliva as a foreign substance and attacks those substances, leading to an allergic reaction.

For most people, mosquito bites cause a minor allergic reaction, and it doesn’t go past these symptoms. However, some people can suffer from severe allergic reactions to mosquito bites. In these cases, we recommend that you visit your doctor for treatment.

Why you shouldn't scratch a mosquito bite

Of course, once the bite starts itching the first thing you want to do is scratch until it feels better. Unfortunately, that’s the last thing you should do. Below are two reasons why you shouldn’t itch.

  • Reason 1: The needle-like mouthparts that the mosquito uses to get the blood leave a tiny hole when the mosquito is done. Scratching at the bite can enlarge the hole and cause more bleeding. 
  • Reason 2: Although mosquitoes are thought to be dirty, your own hands and nails are likely dirtier than the mosquito. Bacteria and other substances that are on your nails can get into the bite if you keep scratching, leading to an infection.

How to treat mosquito bites

Generally, if you can resist scratching the bite and infecting the wound, a mosquito bite will not need any treatment. However, if you feel the need to treat the bite, consider the following:

  • Wash the bite with soap and water and keep it clean. If it is bleeding you can put a small bandage on it, but often this is not needed. 
  • Place an ice pack on the bite to reduce any swelling.
  • Use hydrocortisone or calamine creams to help alleviate itching and other symptoms for minor bites that are not infected. 
  • Keep an eye on the bite. If it appears to be swelling or there is a larger reaction than normal, you may consider using antihistamines. 
  • If the reaction appears particularly bad and you are worried about it, be sure to seek medical attention. This is very rare, but you can never be too careful about serious allergic reactions.

If you notice anything severe or out of the ordinary happening, visit a doctor immediately.

Mosquito species and diseases

There are more than 180 mosquito species in North America. Below you will find three species commonly associated with disease spread.

Common house mosquito

Culex Pipiens

Found in the entire U.S.

Yellow Fever mosquito

Aedes Aegypti

Found in Southern United States

Asian Tiger mosquito

Aedes Albopictus

Found in Southern
California & SW U.S.

Diseases

Mosquito bites can be more than just annoying and itchy. They can spread viruses that can cause serious illness in humans including:

  • Chikungunya virus
  • Dengue fever
  • Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE)
  • Malaria
  • West Nile virus
  • Yellow fever
  • Zika virus

Don’t forget to protect your pets, too! The parasite that causes heartworm in dogs is spread through mosquito bites. Horses can also be at risk for mosquito borne illnesses.

No more mosquito bites

Of course, the best way to treat mosquito bites is not to get bitten at all. Western Exterminator experts are ready to help you find the right solution to eliminate mosquitoes from your property. Call 800-937-8398 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment.


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