Posted by Michael Barber, June 04, 2016 (last updated on June 24, 2019)
Some folks can sit outside for hours in the summer evenings without a nibble, while their companions sit a few feet away and get gnawed to ribbons. Mosquitos - particularly mosquito bites - are odd and annoying, and sometimes even deadly. What do you and your family need to know about these tiny yet fearsome beasts?
1. Not All Mosquitoes Drink Your Blood
There are about 3,500 species of mosquitos, but only about 200 actually drink human blood. All of those that do are female. They only need the human blood to reproduce. Their gentle male counterparts fare well on a vegetable diet alone. When you get a bite, it's better to treat with an antibacterial ointment. Care now prevents infection later.
2. Mosquito Saliva Causes the Bump and Itching
The mosquito bite doesn't cause the swelling and itching. It's actually caused by an anti-coagulant produced in the mosquito's saliva. Though for the bitten person, it makes no difference. The saliva causes an allergic reaction, which produces the annoying itch.
3. Mosquitoes Can Grow in the Tiniest Pools of Water
Experts have found mosquitos growing in a tiny drop of water left in a plastic soda bottle cap after a rain. It takes very little sitting water to produce mosquitos, and keeping the yard clear of debris and receptacles is a good way to reduce the mosquito population in your neighborhood. Clean bird baths regularly, as these are a safe harbor for baby mosquitos.
4. Mosquitoes are Least Active in the Afternoon
To avoid mosquito bites, do your outdoor activities during the heat of the day in the middle of the afternoon. This is a two-sided issue though, because it's also the most likely time to get heat stroke and sunburn.
5. There Are Only 4 Ways to Prevent Mosquito Bites
Instead of braving the 90 degree heat at 2 p.m. in July, try one of the four products approved by the CDC to deter mosquitos:
- Products containing DEET
- Products containing Picaridin
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (or its synthetic version, PMD)
- IR3535 insect repellent
6. Sweat and Breath Attract Mosquitoes
Carbon dioxide in our breath, lactic acid in our sweat, and other chemicals our bodies emit attract nasty mosquitos. Some research also suggests that drinking beer may up your chances of getting bitten.
7. Some Scientists Think Mosquito Extinction Would Be Okay
Proposing species extinction of any kind is a touchy subject, but some scientists say the environment could go on fine without these pests. Others, however, worry about how to feed spiders, frogs, fish, and other insects in their absence.
8. Mosquitoes Carry Malaria
Mosquitos transmit deadly malaria, which infects 250 million people each year, and kills 1 million of its victims. Most of these cases are in Africa. The disease causes fever, chills, shakes, and anemia, and often presents like the common flu.
9. Mosquitoes Carry Yellow Fever
Though the U.S. hasn't had an outbreak of Yellow Fever since 1905, the disease can be blamed on a banana boat that slipped by authorities and infected Italian dock workers who unloaded the ship. It causes irregular heartbeat, bleeding, delirium, coma, fever, headache, jaundice, muscle aches, seizures, vomiting, and possibly death.
10. Mosquitoes Carry West Nile Virus
This disease was once blamed on birds, but scientists now know it is transmitted by mosquitos. Causing fever, rash, headaches, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, and swollen lymph glands, West Nile Virus usually appears within 3-14 days after the bite, and can last 3-6 days. In extreme cases, it can lead to paralysis, confusion, tremors and convulsions, and a coma.
11. Mosquitos Carry Chikungunya
Causing a fever, rash, joint pain or arthritis, headache, loss of taste, and other potential symptoms, this disease first appeared in Kenya after the drought in 2004. It has not yet hit the United States, but experts feel this is a possibility at any given time. If you get any strange symptoms following a mosquito bite, visit an urgent care facility, emergency room, or contact your family physician as soon as possible.
The worst complications due to a mosquito bite can usually be identified and treated with success. However, patients who don't seek treatment in time face the highest risks of serious complications after contracting a mosquito transmitted illness.
Be safe. When in doubt, see your doctor or visit an urgent care center!