In the UK, it is highly unlikely that you will contract a serious disease from a mosquito and they could be considered more of an irritation than a danger. Several species of mosquito are capable of transmitting pathogens and bloodborne diseases. However, cases of dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever are very rare in the UK and the large majority of reported cases were contracted while abroad. Mosquito larvae needs water to develop and therefore mosquitoes can be found near lakes and marshes as well as smaller, stagnant bodies of water. Mosquitoes hibernate and are most active in warm and wet weather.
Mosquitoes bite to drink blood. A female mosquito has a sharp proboscis (a long sucking mouth part) which pierces the skin and draws blood into its mouth from a blood vessel. While drinking, the mosquito injects an anticoagulant (anti-clotting agent) to stop the blood from clotting. The immune system in the body reacts to a break in the skin’s surface by producing histamine, which causes a swelling around the bite. In addition to increasing blood flow and white blood cell count, the histamine sends a signal to the nerves around the bite, which causes itching and inflammation.
The most common reaction to a mosquito bite will be a raised, itchy bump that can be treated with over-the-counter cream and will heal naturally within a few days.
The normal symptoms you might expect from a mosquito bite are:
- A soft, itchy bump on the skin that may become pink or red in colour
- Discolouration of the skin at the site of the bite. You could also potentially have small dark spots appear around the affected area, potentially resembling bruising
- Inflammation and swelling in the area
If you have a weakened immune system, your body may react more severely to a mosquito bite. Elderly people, children, pregnant women and any person with a weakened immune system are more prone to developing moderate symptoms. Consult with a doctor at Ahmey’s if any of the moderate symptoms persist beyond a few days. Prolonged illness following a mosquito bite could indicate a bacterial infection or a more serious bloodborne disease.
Moderate reactions that you might expect from a mosquito bite are:
- Hives (itchy red welts that can occur as a result of an allergic reaction)
- Swollen lymph glands
- Mild headaches
- Mild temperature (a temperature slightly higher than usual)
Severe symptoms indicate that you may have had an allergic reaction to the bite. Equally, serious symptoms could suggest that you have contracted a bloodborne disease like zika, yellow fever or malaria.
Serious reactions that you might expect from a mosquito bite are:
- Severe headache
- High fever
- Skin rash (this can occur as a symptom of chikungunya virus)
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
- Facial swelling
- Additional skin reactions, including itching, hives and pale or flushed skin
- Difficulty breathing
- A weak, rapid pulse
- Dizziness or fainting
- Loss of consciousness
Additional possible symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal
In the unusual event that a bite causes symptoms of a severe reaction, you will need immediate emergency care. If your bite is showing signs of being infected, or you are experiencing moderate reactions that persist beyond a few days, we recommend that you contact Ahmey’s and make an appointment to see a doctor. If the bite is incredibly swollen, the doctor might prescribe a topical cream or oral medication to reduce swelling. If the bite is infected, the doctor may also potentially prescribe antibiotics.
Mosquito bites do not usually require medical treatment. If you experience any moderate symptoms, symptoms that indicate an infection, or symptoms that indicate you may have contracted a bloodborne disease, contact Ahmey’s to make an appointment. If you experience any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, you will need immediate emergency treatment. Any mild discomfort can be treated by the patient themselves in the ways shown below.
First aid for mosquito bites:
- Wash the affected area gently with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to clean the wound and reduce the chance of a bacterial infection
- Place an ice pack or a cold compress (cloth or flannel cooled with cold water) to reduce any swelling
- If possible, elevate or raise the affected area to reduce swelling
- Avoid scratching the area to reduce the risk of introducing infection
- You can purchase anti-inflammatory and anti-itching creams, such as Hydrocortisone, over the counter to relieve itching and reduce inflammation caused by insect bites and stings
Below are some precautions that you can take to avoid the likelihood of being bitten:
- Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are at their most active
- Get rid of any standing water in the home or garden where mosquitoes might breed
- Use a mesh screen on doors and windows to keep insects from entering the home
- If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers and apply an insect repellant that contains 10% to 30% DEET to exposed skin