Many people develop an itchy lump at the site of a mosquito bite. While this is annoying, it's just a minor allergic reaction to proteins in the mosquito's saliva. Some people experience a more severe allergic reaction to mosquito saliva and develop what's known as skeeter syndrome. Here are four things you need to know about skeeter syndrome.
1. What are the signs of skeeter syndrome?
If you have skeeter syndrome, your mosquito bites will become excessively swollen. The bite site will feel hot, and you may feel a hard lump beneath your skin. These bites will itch, but they may also be painful. It's even possible for your bites to ooze liquids or form blisters. These bites may last for weeks.
These symptoms may affect people who've never had serious reactions to mosquito bites before. If your prior mosquito bites haven't caused a reaction or have caused the more-typical itchy lumps, the sudden development of skeeter syndrome can be alarming. You may think that you have a skin infection or another condition. Your doctor can examine your skin and let you know if mosquitoes are to blame for your condition.
2. Why does skeeter syndrome occur?
Like other allergic reactions, skeeter syndrome occurs when your immune system overreacts to a substance that isn't actually dangerous. In the case of skeeter syndrome, the nondangerous substance is mosquito saliva. When a mosquito bites you, its saliva acts as an anticoagulant to allow it to drink your blood more easily. The proteins in this saliva are seen as dangerous invaders by some people's immune systems; if your immune system aggressively targets the salivary proteins, you'll have skeeter syndrome.
Some people have a greater risk of developing skeeter syndrome. Like other types of allergies, people with immune system disorders—such as Omenn syndrome or hyper IgE syndromes—have a higher risk. In addition, travelers may develop skeeter syndrome when they're exposed to exotic types of mosquitoes that their immune systems haven't been exposed to before.
3. Can skeeter syndrome be treated?
This allergic reaction can be treated with antihistamines. Antihistamines are allergy medications that work by blocking your immune system's production of histamine. Histamine is a chemical that causes inflammation and helps to fight off real dangers like bacteria or viruses, but it's also responsible for the symptoms of allergic reactions. Your doctor will tell you how often to take antihistamines. You may only need to take them when you have a reaction, though if you're very allergic or are going to be outside a lot, your doctor may want you to take them everyday as a precautionary measure.
Prednisone can also be used to treat skeeter syndrome. Prednisone suppresses your immune system and can help to halt the allergic reaction. Like other steroids, prednisone can cause a lot of unpleasant side effects, so it's only used as a short-term control method.
Antihistamines and prednisone can help you cope with your allergy, but they aren't cures. For more permanent results, immunotherapy can be performed. Immunotherapy involves exposing you to mosquito saliva proteins in a controlled environment and increasing the dosage of these proteins over time. The goal of this treatment is to teach your immune system to tolerate the allergens. Studies have shown that immunotherapy can help improve symptoms in people who are allergic to mosquito bites.
4. How can you protect yourself?
If you have skeeter syndrome, it's very important that you avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. Wear mosquito repellent when you go outdoors, cover your skin with long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and try to avoid going outdoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are active. For extra protection at night, use a mosquito net over your bed.
If you develop a severe reaction after a mosquito bite, you may have skeeter syndrome and should see an allergist. Find one at a facility like Oak Brook Allergists.