What is Skeeter Syndrome?
Nobody likes bitten by mosquitoes, as nothing in the world can be more annoying than mosquito bites and the scratchy feeling that follows. Skeeter syndrome is one such condition where some people are extra sensitive to mosquito bites and develop a localized allergic reaction to certain proteins present in the saliva of the mosquito.(1, 3, 4)
Majority of the mosquito bites happen at dawn or dusk, the times in which the mosquitoes are very active. Male mosquitoes do not bite; it is the female mosquitoes which are responsible for all the problems.(2)
A female mosquito gets drawn to its victim with a combination of carbon dioxide, scent, and the chemicals present in the sweat of the person. When she finds her ideal victim the mosquito chooses an expanse of exposed skin and bites by jabbing her proboscis to draw the blood. Some of the common symptoms of a mosquito bite are itching with a red bump. When a person has skeeter syndrome, then along with the above symptoms there is development of an allergic reaction by the immune system of the body to the proteins present in the saliva of the mosquito. This form of severe reaction is termed as Skeeter syndrome.
What are the Risk Factors for Skeeter Syndrome and Mosquito Bites?
Mosquitoes apparently prefer to bite certain people over others, which consist of: men, overweight people; pregnant women; individuals with the type O blood group; individuals who have just finished their workout; individuals who have just drunk beer and people who secrete increased quantities of ammonia, lactic acid and uric acid.(2)
People wearing dark colored clothes are more vulnerable to mosquito bites, as mosquitoes get attracted to heat and dark colors absorb heat. People who live in swamplands and tropical, humid climates are also at increased risk for mosquito bites. Children can have a bigger reaction to mosquito bites. Individuals having allergies to certain components of the saliva of the mosquito, which contain antimicrobial agents and proteins, are also at higher risk for developing Skeeter syndrome.
How to Find Out If You Are Bitten By a Mosquito?
The more frequently one gets bitten by mosquitoes, the greater the chances of developing or becoming desensitized over time. For this reason adults often do not suffer from severe reactions to mosquito bites as children.
Mosquito bites symptoms consist of pink to red colored bumps on the skin, which are itchy. The swelling and redness commonly develops about minutes after getting bitten by the mosquito. A size of a usual mosquito bite is less than half inch in width. All these symptoms often develop in about 48 hours after the bite. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, the contact of the human skin with the mosquito should be six seconds or more to result in a reaction.
As there is healing of the mosquito bite, itching will decrease and the skin slowly returns to its normal color and the swelling also subsides. The entire healing process can take about three to four days.
Emergency Symptoms of Skeeter Syndrome and Allergic Reactions to Mosquito Bite
One of the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction or skeeter syndrome to a mosquito bite is the bite is substantially bigger in size, like bigger than a quarter. Some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite are:
- Development of lesions or bigger areas of itching.
- Development of hives at the site of the bite or surrounding it.
- Bruises can be seen near the site of the mosquito bite.
- Inflammation of the lymphatic system. (lymphangitis)(3)
A fatal but rare allergic reaction can occur that is known as anaphylaxis, which causes wheezing and swelling in the throat and needs immediate medical attention.(3)
Emergency medical attention should be sought if there are any of the below symptoms, as these can indicate an acute condition: Severe headache, fever, rash, nausea or vomiting, photosensitivity, fatigue, disorientation, neurological changes such as having muscle weakness on one side of the body.
How to Prevent Mosquito Bites?
Prevention is always better when it comes to any disease and especially with allergies. Mosquitoes thrive and breed on stagnant or standing water. At all costs avoid going near standing water more so at dusk and dawn. Get rid of standing water by:
- Cleaning the birdbaths.
- Unclogging and cleaning the rain gutters.
- Throwing away any water present in unused containers like flower pots.
- Emptying the water from children’s pools.
- Other simple measures which can be undertaken to prevent mosquito bites are:
- Repairing any holes present in door or window screens.
- Wearing light-colored, protective clothing, such as long pants with socks, long-sleeved shirts and a wide-brimmed hat.
- The use of citronella-scented candles in campsites and outdoor areas also helps in keeping mosquitoes at bay.(2)
- The application of insect repellents that has active ingredient DEET is also helpful.(2)
How to Treat Skeeter Syndrome?
If you suffer from a normal reaction from a mosquito bite, then application of calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream helps in relieving the itching. Application of a cold pack also helps in alleviating the symptoms.
For treatment of severe allergic reactions of Skeeter Syndrome, the following can be done:
- A cool bath without using soap helps in reducing the symptoms of Skeeter Syndrome.
- Oral antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be prescribed for treating Skeeter Syndrome.(1)
- Using a topical anti-itch lotion or cream is also beneficial in treating the symptoms of Skeeter Syndrome.
- Having an EpiPen on hand helps in the untoward case of anaphylaxis.
Home Remedies to Avoid for Mosquito Bites
The following home remedies for preventing mosquito bites, should be avoided as there is no scientific evidence for their effectiveness: the use of garlic, scented perfumes, thiamine, vanilla extract and vitamin B supplements.
Home Remedies That Do Work For Mosquito Bite Symptoms Are:
- The application of a wet and cold cloth to the area of bite for some minutes helps in relieving itching and swelling.
- Washing the area of bite and applying an antibiotic ointment also helps with the symptoms of mosquito bite.
- Soaking in a warm oatmeal bath goes a long way in soothing the itching.(5)
- Gently apply pressure on the mosquito bite using a blunt object, such as back of the spoon for 10 seconds also helps in temporary itching relief.
- Using a solution of water and baking soda on the itching and swelling area also helps in relieving the symptoms.
- Applying a bandage over the mosquito bite helps in preventing you from scratching it and giving rise to infections.
What are the Complications of Mosquito Bites?
Some of the complications that you can face because of untreated skeeter syndrome are: development of welts; swelling; infection at the area of the bite; blisters; lymphangitis or sepsis.
These diseases can be fatal if not treated on time. Immediate medical attention is warranted if the following symptoms develop after suffering from a mosquito bite: rash, high fever, muscle and joint pain; conjunctivitis, fatigue; persistent headache and problems with breathing. (anaphylaxis)(3)
What is the Prognosis for Skeeter Syndrome?
Skeeter syndrome is rarely seen; however, the allergic reaction can be quite severe when it develops and needs immediate medical treatment.
Treatment from an allergy specialist is needed when suffering from skeeter syndrome or mosquito bite allergy, more so if you reside in mosquito-prone areas. A skin prick test can be done by the specialist to find out exactly what component of mosquito saliva you have allergy to and accordingly chart out a treatment plan or an immunotherapy plan.(1) Treatment can consist of getting small quantities of allergen injected over a period of months to years, until a tolerable immunity is developed against the mosquito bite.
Skeeter syndrome when properly managed need not interfere with daily life activities and doesn’t lead to any chronic illnesses.