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Mosquito Bites 101: Everything You Need to Know

Learn why mosquito bites itch so much, how long they last, and what you can do to reduce swelling.

Despite all the steps we take to protect ourselves from mosquitoes, they still seem to find their way to us. So, what happens when a mosquito bites and why are they so itchy? Let’s take a look.

How does a mosquito bite?

The female mosquito will start to feed after landing on a person’s skin. Her mouthparts contain sharp bristles and tubes. The bristles slice a hole in the skin, which allows the female mosquito to probe in the tissue until it strikes a small blood vessel, or capillary. Then two tubes are inserted into the blood vessel or capillary, with saliva flowing through one tube, and the person’s blood being sucked up through the other. The saliva acts as an anticoagulant that allows blood to flow more easily. The proteins contained in the saliva cause the human immune system to react in the form of uncomfortable itching.

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Why do mosquitoes bite?

Only female mosquitoes feed on blood because it’s required for egg development.

Why do mosquito bites itch so much?

That itchy sensation you feel after getting bit is the human body’s natural reaction to mosquito saliva. This leads to the immune system producing histamines, which cause the nerves to itch due to increased blood flow. When too much histamine is released, the area around the bite can swell up and turn red in addition to itching.

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What can I do to relieve the itching?

First things first: Stop. Scratching. This will only result in the skin becoming more inflamed and irritated. You also run the risk of breaking the skin, causing an infection, and—you guessed it—more of an itch.

You can also press something cold to the area to reduce blood flow. Ice or a cooling pack should do the trick. Otherwise, calamine lotion or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can reduce inflammation and itchiness, helping the bite to heal faster.

How long do mosquito bites last?

The duration of a mosquito bite will vary from person to person. Sometimes the itching lasts as little as a few minutes or as long as a few days, depending on irritation. But as you might already know, it’ll last longer the more you itch.

Now that you’ve got the basics of mosquito bites down, there’s no need to bug out if you see a red bump or two.

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