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A mosquito bite rarely comes alone. But why do the mosquitoes bite at all and why do these bites itch? Are all bites not critical or can mosquitoes also transmit diseases? You can find out this and more interesting and interesting information on the topic of "mosquito bite" in the following lines.
How are mosquitoes attracted?
Everyone knows the sentence: "Light attracts mosquitoes - turn off the light and close the window." Scientific studies have found, however, that there is no truth to this statement. On the contrary, the opposite is the case. As various studies show, mosquitoes are attracted to humans themselves by their body odor, sweat, warmth and exhaled carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide concentration is highest in the area of the head.
Stagnant water such as ponds or ponds and the water in saucers can also attract mosquitoes. In addition, mosquitoes are most active at dusk. They like a high humidity of more than 80 percent and warm temperatures.
What role does the blood type play?
The smell that we emit through the skin is determined by the composition of our blood, i.e. the blood group. This is also the explanation why two people lying next to each other are more likely to be bitten by a mosquito than the other.
In a study with 64 subjects, Japanese researchers found that people with blood group 0 were the most frequently pricked - especially those who were known as secretors. What does that mean now? A "secretor" is someone whose blood group antigens are also contained in body fluids and secretions such as saliva or sweat. Secretions of blood group 0 were therefore approached by Asian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) almost twice as often as secretors of blood group A.
Why and how does a mosquito bite?
Mosquitoes exist worldwide, and there are around 3000 different species. Most of them are harmless. Of the mosquitoes, it is the females that bite. You need the blood as a protein source for egg maturation. These small female bloodsuckers have a proboscis with which they can penetrate the skin, but the males cannot. The amount of blood sucked on a mosquito bite is between 0.001 and 0.01 milliliters.
Defense reaction of the body
During a bite, mosquitoes release some of their special saliva, a protein-containing secretion, into the upper layers of the skin. This has an analgesic, anticoagulant and vasodilating effect. This way the blood does not clot so quickly and the mosquito can suck more easily. Through contact with the foreign protein, the body is immediately put on alert and a defense reaction begins.
The messenger histamine plays a central role here. This is present almost everywhere in the body, but the highest doses are in the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Histamine is a carrier that is involved in many reactions in the human organism. A small amount of histamine is immediately released through contact with the protein that the mosquito releases when a mosquito bite occurs. This expands the smallest blood vessels (capillaries), which creates the typical symptoms at the injection site: swelling, wheals, redness and itching. In this context, it becomes clear why ointments containing an antihistamine can help with mosquito bites.
The first reaction - the scratching
Since such a mosquito bite usually causes massive itching, the first aid is scratching. But the relief doesn't last long. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania explain this in the Neutron journal as follows: Scratching stimulates pain receptors that pass on their information to B5-I neurons. These release a special messenger substance - the dynorphin - which in turn inhibits the itch receptors. This means that the pain caused by scratching switches off the itching for a short time - but only for a short time.
In addition, scratching irritates the skin more and more. It catches fire and may itch even more. Above all, germs can penetrate the wound caused by the mosquito bite. This can trigger an infection. So better not scratch. If the sting is treated immediately, either with the help of home remedies, ointments from the pharmacy or naturopathic remedies, it usually heals quite quickly.
Mosquito bite - home remedies
There are many home remedies that can provide relief from a mosquito bite. Test them out, the effect is quite individual.
What helps well and provides quick relief is cooling - as quickly as possible. The cold ensures that the blood vessels contract and the histamine release is slowed down. The inflammatory reaction is also somewhat inhibited and the nerve conduction speed is slowed down. Cooling relieves itching and counteracts swelling. Rub an ice cube over the stitch, but don't leave it directly on the skin. It is best to place the cubes or a cooling pad wrapped in a cloth on the affected area.
What also helps is cold water mixed with a little vinegar or lemon juice put on a cloth and packed on the mosquito bite. As soon as the cloth is no longer cold, this is renewed. You can also put on lemon slices, cucumber or onion slices, this is also a good home remedy for mosquito bites.
If you don't have any of these at home, you can also use curd wraps for cooling. To do this, put a little curd cheese on a thin kitchen towel, fold it up and place it on the stitch. Furthermore, pads soaked with alcohol or plantain juice alleviate the itching. Even our own saliva cools a little and relieves itching. So if nothing is tangible - we always have saliva ready.
A good home remedy for mosquito bites is aloe vera. The aloe gel cools, has an anti-inflammatory, decongestant and anti-itch effect. Be sure to get a preparation that does not contain any additives. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can separate a leaf and apply the emerging gel directly to the mosquito bite.
Treat mosquito bite with heat
In addition to cold, heat is also a good remedy for mosquito bites. Small electronic devices are available on the market that tackle the sting at around 50 degrees Celsius. While this is uncomfortable and burns something, it helps a lot. The foreign proteins of the mosquito are denatured by the heat, which results in a reduction in the release of histamine. The faster the heat is applied after the stitch, the better.
Homeopathy and Schuessler Salts
In addition to the home remedies mentioned so far, the area of homeopathy and Schüßler salts also offer various remedies that can possibly alleviate the symptoms of a mosquito bite. However, it should be pointed out that scientific proof of their effectiveness has so far been lacking.
A common mosquito bite from homeopathy is Apis mellifica. This mainly helps against the swelling and inflammation caused by the sting. If the mosquito bite is itchy, Rhus toxicodendron is the treatment of choice. If there is a wheal in addition to the itching, Urtica urens could be the right thing.
If you prefer to use Schüßler salts, you have no.8 (sodium chloratum) ready. This is sucked and at the same time applied externally. To do this, dissolve one or two tablets in a little water and put the porridge on the prick. If redness and warmth are added, the choice falls on salt no. 3, Ferrum phosphoricum. This can also be used internally and externally.
If the mosquito bite has caught fire or is very large and swollen or even shows discoloration, Ledum is popular. This is a homeopathic remedy that belongs in every naturopathic medicine chest. Ledum is sucked, but also dissolved and then dabbed on the prick. And best of all several times a day. You can also fix a globule directly on the stitch with a plaster. This is a good tip for use in young children.
Treat mosquito bites with an antihistamine
The pharmacy offers a variety of creams or gels for the treatment of mosquito bites. As a rule, these contain an antihistamine. Pens with a cooling effect are perfect for on the go.
Inflamed mosquito bite
Caution should be exercised if a prick ignites. Always wash your hands before applying ointments. If pus has accumulated, draft ointments can help. However, if the inflammation is extensive, painful and possibly still changed in color, you should definitely see a doctor. Antibiotic therapy may be necessary.
As already described at the beginning, scratching is a cause of an inflamed mosquito bite. But the mosquitoes can also bring along pathogens such as streptococci or coli bacteria that cause an infection. These adhere to the female lancing device and are brought into the wound during the lancing process.
Lymphedema and sepsis
In the worst case, an inflamed mosquito bite can lead to blood poisoning (sepsis). This is a systemic reaction of the body through invaded pathogens. If, for example, streptococci get into the human body by scratching the sting, they multiply in the lymph channels and lead to lymphedema there. If the pathogens get into the bloodstream, in the worst case there is a risk of blood poisoning. If this is not recognized and treated in good time, it can have serious long-term consequences or even be fatal.
Possible symptoms of blood poisoning include the inflammatory change in the mosquito bite
- fast pulse,
- rapid breathing,
- low blood pressure,
- inner unrest
- and confusion.
Danger: The suspicion of this illness belongs immediately in a hospital.
Mosquito bite - allergy
Not only bees or wasps can trigger an allergic reaction, but also mosquitoes. A mosquito bite allergy, however, is comparatively rare. The stitches swell particularly strongly and also itch massively, and the symptoms last much longer. Anyone who notices this should treat every stitch immediately. Measures such as cooling or heating with a suitable heat stick are used for this.
Danger: If symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, poor circulation, rapid heartbeat or similar appear, please see a doctor immediately.
Mosquitoes as disease carriers
Mosquito bites are usually harmless. Unfortunately, however, there are mosquito species that can transmit dangerous infectious diseases. This includes, for example, the Anopheles mosquito, which transmits malaria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Egyptian tiger mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is the main carrier of the Zika virus, as well as for the causative agents of yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya fever and other viral diseases. In Germany, however, there is no danger of being stung by Aedes aegypti, because according to the Federal Foreign Office, this does not currently occur in Germany.
Meanwhile everyone is talking about the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). Because this mosquito is now spreading worldwide, the first tiger mosquito was discovered in Germany in 2007. It originally comes from the South and Southeast Asian tropics and is responsible, for example, for the transmission of dengue fever, Chikungunya fever and the Zika virus. Aedes albopictus can transmit a total of more than 20 pathogens - however, it does not naturally carry the pathogens. Rather, the tiger mosquito must first have ingested it by biting a sick person in order to subsequently be able to infect another person.
Scientists assume that Asian tiger mosquitoes will also multiply more and more due to climate change and global warming. Goods transport and travel activities, in which the mosquito is carried as a "stowaway", also mean that the tropical insect is spreading worldwide. According to the Federal Foreign Office, however, there is still very little risk of infection with the Zika virus in Germany.
Everyone can do something to prevent their reproduction: Avoid standing water such as puddles in the garden as well as coasters, bowls, vessels, etc., in which water collects. Because the mosquito sets its eggs in this water and then the larvae develop there.
Protection against mosquito bites
A quick and easy to use home remedy for mosquitoes is light, light clothing in the form of a long-sleeved top and long trousers. At home, mosquito nets are best attached to the windows. On vacation, a mosquito net protects over the bed. If you like, you can waterproof clothing, bags and tents against mosquitoes. Special sprays are available for this. You can also use it to process your mosquito screens or mosquito nets.
Furthermore, mosquito repellants, so-called repellents, which are applied to the skin, help. These are intended to prevent insects from being attracted to the smell of humans. The best known and most effective active ingredient is diethyltoluamide ("DEET"). It is a chemical insect repellent with a number of possible side effects. The drug became known because it was successfully used in the Vietnam War. If you want to travel to malaria areas, it is usually recommended to get a mosquito repellent with diethyltoluamide. The active ingredient is very effective, both for daytime and nocturnal insects.
In addition to skin irritation, these agents, especially with frequent use, can have negative effects on the nervous system, since it can penetrate the bloodstream through the skin. For people who use skin care products containing urea, for example, penetration is even easier. There is also a greater risk if DEET is applied over a large area. The active ingredient can also attack leather and plastic. Use in children under two years of age, as well as in pregnancy and lactation is not recommended.
An alternative that is considered to be better tolerated is the active ingredient icaridin. This is also contained in many mosquito repellents, but not entirely without side effects. Itching, redness, and flaking of the skin can occur in conjunction with icaridin. Under no circumstances should this be applied to diseased skin or wounds and, above all, not inhaled. Pregnant and lactating women should definitely discuss the application with their doctor. Those with sensitive skin can choose a product that contains icaridin and dexpanthenol. While DEET is recommended for malaria areas, Icaridin is a good alternative for traveling to malaria-free areas due to its better tolerability.
Citriodiol is well tolerated and is not one of the chemical repellents. The fabric is made from lemon eucalyptus and is one of the best natural mosquito repellents.
If you don't want to get a mosquito bite at all, you should protect yourself with the measures described in the text. Protection from the mosquitoes that transmit the disease is essential. Such a small, itchy mosquito bite disappears again, but if the small insect was previously with an infected person and then passes on the pathogen by bite?
Anyone traveling to areas where certain infectious diseases occur should seek advice on a possible vaccination. In any case, protective measures such as mosquito repellent, suitable clothing, mosquito nets, etc. are necessary. So far, the risk of infection in Germany is still very low. Despite everything, protection from the prick is definitely the best prevention. (sw)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- World Health Organization (WHO): Zika virus (accessed: January 24, 2020), WHO
- World Health Organization (WHO): Mosquito-borne diseases (accessed: January 24, 2020), WHO
- Federal Foreign Office health service: Zika virus infection. Information for employees and travelers, as of: 06/2019 (accessed: January 24, 2020), Federal Foreign Office
- Kardon, Adam P .; Polgár, Erika; Hachisuka, Junichi et al .: Dynorphin Acts as a Neuromodulator to Inhibit Itch in the Dorsal Horn of the Spinal Cord, in: Neuron, 82/3: 573-586, May 2014, Neuron
- Raji, Joshua I .; Melo, Nadia; Castillo, John S. et al .: Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Detect Acidic Volatiles Found in Human Odor Using the IR8a Pathway, in: Current Biology, 29/8: 1253-1262, April 2019, Current Biology
- Verhulst, Niels O .; Beijleveld, Hans; Knols, Bart G.J. et al .: Cultured skin microbiota attracts malaria mosquitoes, in: Malaria Journal, 8: 302, 2009, Malaria Journal
- Shirai, Yoshikazu; Funada, Hisashi; Takizawa, Hisao et al .: Landing preference of Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) on human skin among ABO blood groups, secretors or nonsecretors, and ABH antigens, in: Journal of Medical Entomology, 41 (4): 796-9, July 2004, Oxford University Press
- Shirai, O .; Tsuda, T .; Kitagawa, S. et al .: Alcohol ingestion stimulates mosquito attraction, in: Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, 18 (2): 91-6, June 2002, PubMed