Mosquitoes may be small, but they have an outsized effect on humans. They are nearly ubiquitous, with mosquitoes inhabiting almost every place that humans do. Mosquitoes are a member of the fly family, but unlike common house flies, they pack an itchy punch that makes them especially bothersome. More bothersome still is the tendency of many mosquitoes to carry diseases that affect humans and pets. To stay safe this mosquito season, Mr. Mister has some tips about mosquito bite symptoms and treatment.
Where Do Mosquitoes Live?
The short answer is that they live everywhere. With the exception of Antarctica and a few islands (mostly in very cold polar or subpolar regions), mosquitoes live in every region and climate. The American Southeast is a particularly welcoming home for mosquitoes. Our substantial rainfall, mild winters, and hot summers are perfect for mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are perfectly at home where humans live. They prefer tall, bushy grass, overgrown foliage, and forests. Mosquitoes need standing water to lay their eggs, so any standing water is like a magnet to mosquitoes. They are often found in clogged gutters, storm drains, and neglected bird feeders or bird baths. Mosquitoes can also be found laying eggs in standing water like swimming pools, ponds, or other garden water features. A pile of leaves may hold dozens on little pools of water, one in each leaf. Each of these pools is usually large enough to host a batch of mosquito eggs.
How Does a Mosquito Bite?
Both male and female mosquitoes feed on plant nectar. Male mosquitoes don’t bite at all. But female mosquitoes require the proteins in blood to make their eggs. Male mosquitoes may live for only a week, but female mosquitoes can live for months. A female mosquito will take regular blood meals to ensure that she has the right ingredients to lay her eggs. Often, a female mosquito will remain active and feeding for nearly the whole mosquito season.
Mosquitoes “bite” by piercing the skin with long tubular mouthparts. The proboscis is the outermost mouthpart, housing several other parts. Once the mosquito has pierced the skin, it injects some saliva into the host. The saliva keeps the host’s blood from clotting, allowing the mosquito to feed. The saliva is also what generates an allergic response in the host, resulting in that telltale bump and accompanying itching sensation.
Not all people are equally affected by mosquito bites. Mosquitoes find their prey mostly by scent. The main thing they look for is the carbon dioxide exhaled by all mammals. But they are also attracted to the odor given off by the chemicals and bacteria located in your sweat and on your skin. Every human has a different mix of chemicals and bacteria, and some are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. In addition, not everyone is equally allergic to the mosquito saliva. So even when a mosquito bites, some people may experience a much more severe reaction than others.
Identifying a Mosquito Bite
Most of us are pretty familiar with the look and feel of a mosquito bite. But the reaction may actually vary from person to person. When the mosquito first pierces the skin, you may feel a little prick. This may be enough warning to spot the mosquito and kill it. But you have to be quick to beat the injection of saliva that causes the reaction.
Once the mosquito has injected its saliva, the body mounts an immune response. The response and the accompanying inflammation produce a telltale welt. This is often nothing more than a red bump. The allergic response, which is really just an overactive immune response, also causes the itching.
Some people may be more severely affected by mosquito bites. Children are often more affected by bites. People with weakened immune systems may also have more severe symptoms. These could include hives, a larger than usual patch of redness and swelling, or swollen lymph nodes. In the absence of a mosquito borne illness, this is usually the extent of the reaction.
How Do You Treat Mosquito Bites?
The first thing to do is wash the bite with warm water and soap. This may help wash off some of the saliva that causes the reaction. Beyond that, the most you can do is to treat the symptoms of the bite. For the itching, you can usually find over-the-counter medicines that will provide some relief. You can use a regular pain killer or a topical cream specifically formulated to relieve itching. Since the bump and itching are caused by an allergic reaction, you can also treat the symptoms with antihistamines.
Even though mosquito bites itch, it is important not to scratch them. For children with bites, keep their nails short and discourage too much scratching. Excessive scratching can break the skin, opening you up to infections. Also, scratching is only a very, very short term solution. Unlike a regular itch, scratching a mosquito bite will not make the itch go away.
If you notice more severe symptoms, like a headache, body aches, or a fever, this may be an indication of mosquito borne illness. Call a doctor, as some illnesses can be serious. Early detection and treatment of mosquito borne illnesses can often avoid further complications.
What Diseases Do Mosquitoes Carry?
Mosquitoes are famous for carrying all sorts of diseases. Mosquito borne illnesses infect over half a billion people each year in Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico, Russia, and much of Asia. The World Health Organization estimates that each year 200 million people are infected with malaria alone, mostly from mosquito bites. Each year it is estimated that at least two million people die of mosquito borne illnesses. This makes mosquitoes one of the world’s most dangerous animals.
However, in North America (apart from Mexico) serious mosquito borne illnesses are rare. One of the worst of these diseases, malaria, has been completed eradicated in the region. Other diseases cannot be transmitted by mosquitoes at all. For example, there was initially some concern that HIV could be transmitted by mosquitoes. But studies as well as practical experience have shown that HIV is not generally spread by mosquitoes. The same is true of other diseases commonly spread by bodily fluids in North America, such as hepatitis.
The main diseases carried by mosquitoes in North America are West Nile virus, which very rarely causes severe illness, and heartworms, which can affect dogs and sometimes cats.
How to Prevent Mosquito Bites
There is no way to completely avoid being bitten if mosquitoes are present. When you will be in an area with mosquitoes, make sure to use a mosquito repellent that includes DEET or Picaridin. Wearing loose fitting clothes with long pants and sleeves can also make it harder for mosquitoes to bite you. Drinking beer seems to make mosquitoes more attracted to humans, so avoid beer if you’re at a mosquito infested barbecue.
The best way to prevent bites is to prevent mosquitoes. Eliminating standing water can help reduce breeding areas for mosquitoes. Trimming back tall grass and overgrown bushes also reduces mosquito habitat. But if you really want to rid your yard of mosquitoes, your best option is professional mosquito control.
Mr. Mister Mosquito control offers two ways to keep your home mosquito free. The first option is to use their ClearZone Mosquito Misting service. This uses a special solution that sticks to the underside of your foliage for 21 days. The solution kills adult mosquitoes and inhibits reproduction. It is also 100% biodegradable. A technician will visit your home to reapply the solution about every 21 days throughout mosquito season.
Another option is to install an Automated Mosquito Misting System. This system works like a sprinkler system to automatically release a mist of anti-mosquito solution at regular intervals. This eliminates the need for regular visits and ensures a bug free yard all season long.
Whichever solution you decide on, Mr. Mister Mosquito Control is happy to get started right away. So don’t spend another day fighting off mosquitoes. Contact Mr. Mister Mosquito Control today!