What’s more dreadful than the blistering heat in the summertime? How about feeling like a real-life mosquito magnet every time you go outside?
Some people are lucky to never have this problem, but if you’re like me, going outside makes you feel like you’re a walking buffet for these insects. Here are 8 very interesting myths and facts about those dastardly creatures that torment you every summer evening.
About That Mosquito Bite – What’s Fact? What’s Fiction?
1. “Mosquitoes have teeth, that’s why they bite me.”
MYTH. The term “mosquito bite” is actually misleading. Mosquitos do not have any sort of teeth or jaw to bite your skin. A mosquito bite is actually the mosquito puncturing your skin with its mouth part (called a ), a long needle-like snout. The mosquito inserts it deep enough to find a blood capillary and begins to suck your blood.
2. “A mosquito bite is called a wheal.”
FACT. Don’t ask me why it is called a wheal. Just know that you can impress your friends with your knowledge that the giant red bump you get is called a “wheal.”
3. “The bump and itch is caused by the mosquito inserting something weird and deadly inside me.”
Both the bump and itch is caused by the body in reaction to the mosquito sucking your blood. The proboscis is composed of two types of tubes- one to suck up the blood, and one to insert the mosquito’s saliva into your blood.
The saliva has enzymes that are not compatible with your body. In reaction, your body releases antibodies to “fight” the enzymes. In doing so, it releases antihistamines to increase the blood flow to the bite. The excess histamines in your body cause the swelling of the skin and the itchiness.
4. “ I can’t feel the mosquito bite because their snouts are so small.”
MYTH. The saliva from the bite is also a mild painkiller (which explains why you don’t feel a thing) and also a blood thinner to prevent your blood from clotting where the mosquito “bit” you. But you already know it isn’t a mosquito bite!
5. “Scratching will only make it worse.”
Absolutely a FACT. Scratching will not make the itching go away. In fact, it could make it worse. If you scratch too much and tear the skin, you can cause an infection.
The best thing to do if you are intensely bothered by it is to put on calamine lotion, hydrocortisone, or an ice pack to constrict the blood vessels, numb the area, and reduce swelling.
6. “I get bitten more often because my blood attracts mosquitos.”
MYTH. If you’re telling your kids this – or your parents used to say the same thing to you – STOP!
There is a lot of research into why certain people get bitten more by others. Most results are showing that it’s nothing in the blood, but rather the chemical odors your body gives off. The human body has odors that characterize it as being human and differentiating it from any other animal. Many people however give off different odors that throw off the mosquitoes and prevent attraction.
Some research has shown that stress induces chemicals that repel mosquitoes, while other research says the stench of stinky feet is extremely delicious for them.
Luckily enough, this is a FACT! If you don’t have calamine lotion or an anti-itch stick in your cabinets, try some of these unusual items: a damp green tea bag, cold aloe vera gel, alcohol, hand sanitizer, and witch hazel.
These items have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties to reduce swelling and help decrease a chance of infection and distract you from the itchiness.
8. “Apparently only female mosquitos bite me!”
FACT. Female mosquitoes consume animal blood for reproduction. Male mosquitoes will drink flower nectar instead.
This post was originally posted on the now-defunct Mom’s Choice Matters blog on 7/27/15.
View all posts by Victoria Nguyen here.
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