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What Makes Mosquito Bites Itch and How to Stop It

I really love finding itchy mosquito bites – said no one ever!  As the seasons change and the temperatures rise, you are destined to run into your old enemy, mosquitoes.  You don’t want to make eye contact, you try to cover up, surely, she won’t find you- yet she always does.  So, what gives?! Why do mosquitoes go out of their way to bite you?  Why is the aftermath so itchy?  Well, friends, we have done the research and put the pieces of this frustrating puzzle together for you.

Why do mosquitoes bite in the first place?

Did you know female mosquitoes are the only ones who bite? Yep, that’s right! The ladies are the ones causing mayhem. The reason why they are the biters – they need the proteins in human and animal blood to fertilize their eggs!  Ironically, people help create the mosquitoes they see and hate.  That is not something anyone signed up for, yet here we are.

Why are some people more prone to mosquito bites?

Smithsonian Magazine says that scientists have found a variety of factors that can increase your chances of being bitten.  Some of these traits are:

  1. Blood Type O was found to attract mosquitoes twice as much as A, while B fell somewhere in the middle.
  2. Carbon Dioxide is like a magnet for mosquitoes. The moreof it you exhale, the more likely you are to get a bite.
  3. Exercise and metabolism play a part due to lactic acid and other substances found in sweat.
  4. Beer drinkers are more at risk, and scientists aren’t quite sure why. One study showed that as little as one 12-ounce beer could increase your chances.
  5. Pregnancy because you usually exhale more carbon dioxide, and your temperature is slightly elevated.
  6. Genetics can also be the culprit. Unfortunately, you can’t change those!

What causes the itch?

The short answer is quite simple. It is our bodies’ response to the proteins in the mosquito’s saliva. When a mosquito bites you, it inserts its long, straw-like mouth into a tiny blood vessel. Their saliva contains specific proteins and anti-coagulants (a fancy word to say it stops the blood from clotting) to keep your blood flowing for their free meal. Because of those proteins, our body has an immune response that triggers histamine production.  Histamine sends increased blood flow and white blood cells to the area, which causes swelling and inevitably leads to itching. Yes, your immune system is partially to blame here!  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, contact with the insect has to last a minimum of six seconds for a reaction to happen! That would explain why if you see it quick enough, you never get an itchy bump.  There is a small yet lucky group of humans that never react. Some people form immunity to them so long as it’s a mosquito from the same species. For the majority of us, that is simply not the case. Worry not; there are ways to protect yourself from their attack and get relief.

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How to prevent mosquito bites

There are few precautions that you can take to lower your chances of being feasted on by a mosquito.  We will start with one of the more obvious options, though the hardest to do:

  1. Wear clothes that cover your skin. However, if you are dealing with mosquitoes, you are most likely in a hot and humid climate. There are lightweight, breathable options for clothes, but use your best judgment. We don’t want you to have a heat stroke!
  2. Use a repellant. The CDC recommends using repellents that are EPA registered.  Lucky for you, Stay Away Mosquitoes is EPA registered and uses picaridin to repel not only mosquitoes but gnats, biting flies, ticks, and chiggers, too!  Win!
  3. Eliminate standing water. Mosquitoes LOVE standing, shallow water. They will lay their eggs in water as shallow as half an inch!
  4. Sit in screened-in areas. This one may be more of a challenge, depending on where you live.  Using screens on your windows or porches are great for keeping bugs out.  Regularly check for small holes in your screens and patch them.

Itch Relief

What if you’ve done everything you could but still came out with a few bites?  Try these tips to help reduce the itch.  First things first, resist the urge to scratch.  We know that it is hard not to, but scratching actually makes it itch more because it causes more inflammation.  You can also take an antihistamine.  Remember, histamine production is what got this whole party started.  Reducing it reduces the inflammation.  Hydrocortisone cream is always a go-to for itch relief.  With creams ranging from ones with aloe to a cooling effect, there are many different options.  Try calamine lotion.  Known for its itch relief when dealing with poison ivy, it’s worth a shot.  Finally, you can ice the area.  Ice reduces swelling and will provide temporary relief.

Now that you know why mosquito bites itch and what to do about it, you can go into the warmer months prepared to outsmart your enemy!