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Asthma Fact Sheet | Basic Asthma Information
Allergy Fact Sheet | Basic Types and Prevalence

Mosquito bite allergies

With global warming we are seeing more pollen, insects and that includes mosquitoes. So be prepared for the onslaught of mosquitoes and their nasty bites and associated itchiness, etc. However, there are some of us who are possibly 'allergic' to mosquito bites.

An immune reaction can occur at the site of a bite with immediate and/or delayed areas of swelling and itchiness. One may also experience a large area of swelling around the bite. 'Skeeter’s syndrome' is the name for a large area of swelling which gives the appearance of a skin infection known as 'cellulitis'. There are extremely rare reports of individuals experiencing hives as well as other signs of a generalized reaction.

So who are at risk for mosquito reactions? Those who spend more time outdoors, such as workers or those who do a variety of outdoor sports theoretically have greater risk of bites. Prime biting times are generally dawn and dusk. So what attracts the mosquito? Body odors and scents (colognes, fragrance skin care products) are attractive to mosquitoes. Larger people are more likely to be bitten than smaller people. (For information on who are bitten more – men vs. women – click here.)  Those who exercise or sweat more may have more of a propensity for bites too. The reason: higher breathing rates yield higher levels of carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes, as well as one’s increased body temperature.

What can you do to reduce your risk of a bite reaction? The best defense is to prevent the bites. Insect repellents are designed to do just that. DEET-containing sprays are considered the gold standard. The higher concentration of DEET will determine how long the 'anti-biting' effect lasts. Most DEET containing sprays should be in the range of 10-35% for average purposes (backyard, general exposure) and higher for those engaged in riskier activities such as hiking in the woods. Check the label and with your pediatrician for repellent sprays for children. There are other natural type repellents made from various tropical oils such as geranium and eucalyptus as well as other repellents such as Avon’s skin so soft.

Wear long pants and shirts during prime biting times of the day and try and reduce the use of scented products. Researchers find that mosquitoes may be more attracted to darker colored fabrics, and lighter colors may allow you to see ticks on your clothing more easily, an unrelated but significant problem. Additionally, monitoring and draining areas of standing water around your home, where mosquitoes like to breed, should help.

What are the best options for bite reactions? Keep all bite sites clean and wash with warm soapy water. You may benefit from an over-the-counter or prescription topical steroid cream to minimize discomfort, itch and swelling. Your health care provider may also recommend an oral antihistamine for problematic localized bite reactions.

If you continue to suffer after getting mosquito bites, see an allergist for evaluation and to help identify the need for specialized treatment for this condition - giving you a chance to enjoy a bite free summer!

Clifford Bassett, MD, FACAAI,

Spokesperson, ACAAI Allergist Educational Campaign

June 2010

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