What is Skeeter Syndrome?
We've all been bitten by a mosquito. But for people with severe allergies, the symptoms are more than just annoying: they're serious. Most mosquito bites occur either at sunrise or sunset, when mosquitoes are most active. Although male mosquitoes are harmless – feeding only on nectar and water – females are blood-seeking.
A female mosquito locates its victim using a combination of human scent, exhaled carbon dioxide and chemicals in the person's sweat. When it finds the right person, it rests on exposed skin and inserts its proboscis into the skin to suck blood. The proboscis is a long, flexible tube located on the head of the mosquito that can pierce human skin. The common symptoms – a red raised mass and itching – are not caused by the bite itself, but by the immune system's reaction to the proteins in the mosquito's saliva. This reaction is known as Skeeter's syndrome.
What are the predisposing factors for mosquito bites and Skeeter syndrome:
Mosquitoes seem to prefer certain categories of people more than others, such as:
People with blood type 0
People who have recently exercised
People who excrete higher amounts of uric acid, lactic acid and ammonia
People who have recently drunk beer
Also, because mosquitoes are attracted to warmth, dark clothing increases the chances of being bitten. And this is because dark colors absorb heat. People who live in humid, tropical climates are at increased risk of being bitten.
Some people are also at increased risk of an allergic reaction, such as young children. People with allergies to some of the components of mosquito saliva, such as proteins and antimicrobial agents, are more likely to develop Skeeter syndrome.
Recognizing the mosquito bite
The more times a person has been bitten by mosquitoes, the more likely they will become desensitized over time. This means that adults typically have less severe reactions to mosquito bites than children.
Common symptoms of a mosquito bite include soft masses on the surface of the skin that become pink, red and itchy. In most cases, redness and swelling appear within minutes of a mosquito bite. A hard dark red mass appears the next day, although these symptoms can occur up to 48 hours after the initial bite. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, contact with a mosquito should be at least six seconds or longer to cause a reaction.
As the mosquito bite heals, the itching subsides and the skin gradually returns to its normal color. This usually takes three to four days. The swelling will go down in about a week.
A typical mosquito bite is less than 1.3 centimeters long.
Allergic reactions and emergency symptoms
Significantly larger (in size) mosquito bites may be a symptom of a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include:
Large area of itching
Bruising near the bite area
Lymphangitis, inflammation of the lymphatic system
Hives in the area around the bite
Anaphylaxis, a rare life-threatening reaction leading to throat swelling and wheezing – needs immediate medical attention
Seek emergency medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms, as they may be a sign of a serious condition:
Nausea or vomiting
Neurological changes, such as muscle weakness on one side of the body
How can mosquito bites be prevented?
As with all other allergies, prevention is the best approach. Mosquitoes need stagnant water to feed on. If possible, avoid standing water, especially at sunrise and sunset, when mosquitoes are most active.
Eliminate any source of standing water in your home:
Cleaning the pool
Cleaning the sewer manholes
Cleaning the bird feeders
Emptying unused containers such as pots
Other ways to prevent mosquito bites include:
Wear protective light-colored clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat
Repair holes in screens