Mosquitoes must find nothing more delicious than human skin. That’s how it feels when you’re covered in itchy bites, agonizing over how to avoid scratching. The World Health Organization advises that mosquitoes are one of the deadliest animals there is — they carry and spread disease to humans, and are responsible for millions of deaths around the world annually. So what really happens when these deadly insects bite us?
Funnily enough, they’re not actually biting us. Best Life details how the female mosquito lands on your skin and extends her proboscis (a narrow part of the mouth used to retrieve blood) into it as she tries to locate a yummy blood vessel. Mosquitoes aren’t teeny vampires, though, they just need protein-rich blood to produce eggs and propagate their species.
The mosquito injects us with a vasodilator, which keeps blood flowing rather than clotting while it feeds. It is this injection of the mosquito’s saliva that causes the problem. As Dr. Renee Matthews, MD notes, our body reacts pretty strongly to this. “When a mosquito bites us, our body’s immune system creates histamines, causing the skin around the mosquito bite to itch,” she advises. Still, you might not notice right away and may even start itching hours later. Likewise, “Redness and swelling are part of the immune reaction, as well.”
As Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, MD elaborates, “When your body has identified that the bug’s saliva is in your system… your lymphocytes (white blood cells) will go to where the bug bite is to try and kill the saliva off. This is then why your body creates a swelling bump that is itchy.”
Mosquitoes arrive during the summer months, so if you’re looking to appeal less to the little suckers, taking more showers so you’re less sweaty could help. As research published in PLOS One revealed, they’re attracted to skin bacteria.
If you get bitten, whatever you do, don’t scratch. As Dr. Hollingsworth advises, “The best way for it to go away is to try not to itch the area and let it go away on its own. Typically, by the next day it will have subsided and two or three days later, the bite will be healed by your white blood cells.” If you’re in agony, apply an ice pack. And, as with anything else, go see your doctor if you’re concerned.
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