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Mosquito Bites
Jun 29th, 2011 Headlines

What makes a bug bite itchy? Many aren’t aware that it is actually the female mosquito that bites you.  During the bite, she feeds off your blood and deposits saliva into your skin.  Your immune system then reacts to the substances in the saliva and releases chemicals that cause the itch.

People are most likely to get mosquito bites at dawn or at dusk. These are the times when mosquitoes are most active.

Interestingly, mosquitoes are more likely to bite men, people with type O blood, and people who are overweight. They’re also attracted to heat and therefore, wearing dark colors that are heat absorbent can help. In addition, the older you are in age, the less of a reaction you tend to have.

After you have been bit, wash the area with soap and water.  Apply a cold compress or ice to reduce itching and swelling.  The itching can also be eased by calamine lotion or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.  If you have multiple bites with a lot of itching, you can use an oral antihistamine like Benadryl or diphenhydramine, or non-sedating ones like Zyrtec or cetirizine.

Besides the pestering itch that comes with it, mosquito bites can sometimes spread diseases. The two we hear most often about is the West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, commonly known as triple E.  They are both very uncommon, as Triple E cases are the most infrequent. Both of these diseases can cause fevers, body aches, headaches, and seizures.  Triple E is the more dangerous of the two, causing death in a third of its victims.

What can you do to avoid the bite, in the first place? The ingredient that works best for insect repellants is DEET.  The higher the concentration is, the longer period of protection. Although, concentrations greater than 50% probably don’t provide any added benefit.  Insect repellant that contains 10% DEET lasts about 2 hours, while 30% DEET lasts about 5 or 6 hours.

Most people, especially those with children, frequently question if DEET is totally safe. Studies over the past 40 years have not shown that DEET causes cancer or other illnesses. However, it’s not appropriate for kids less than 2 months of age to use it. One should stick to preparations with 10-30% DEET and apply it sparingly.

It important to know that products containing both DEET based insect repellant and sunscreen should not be used.  Due to the fact that sunscreen needs to be reapplied throughout the day, you don’t want to be reapplying the DEET each time, as well. This can be especially harmful to children. If you’re going to use to separate products, apply the sunscreen first then the DEET twenty minutes later; this is simply because DEET can reduce the effectiveness of sunscreen by a third.

Citronella is an insect repellant that is not as safe or effective as products that contain DEET. It only lasts 30 minutes to 2 hours. Some people develop skin rashes to Citronella and it shouldn’t be used in kids under 2 years of age. Citronella products like citronella candles and citronella wrist, neck, and ankle bands, do not prevent mosquito bites.

Natural products do provide some protection, but not for a very long period of time. Plant oils, such as lavender and geranium, provide less than 30 minutes of protection against mosquitoes. It is important to know that lemon eucalyptus isn’t safe for kids under 3 years of age. For these reasons, these natural products are not generally recommended.



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