Mosquito bites will cause irritation to most people, but for some the itchy bites can be more than annoying, they can turn out to be more severe with serious side effects.  In young children and those with a reduced immunity system, mosquito bites can produce large areas of swelling and redness, followed by fever, hives and swollen lymph nodes. 

The allergic reaction caused by polypeptides in the mosquito saliva is dubbed Skeeter Syndrome. Resembling a bee sting, it has the potential to cause the eyes to swell up and shut, increase the size of the affected limb to almost double and can produce a warmth and harness to the area.  In some cases, particularly in small children, the area can be incredibly painful and can develop into an unsightly blister, discharging fluids.

For parents, the most extreme cases can be very worrying as the reaction can result in asthmatic attacks, angioedema and anaphylactic shock.

Causes of Skeeter Syndrome

The female mosquito injects it’s salvia into the victim’s blood to act as a blood-thinning agent to effectively draw upon.  It is the polypeptides in the salvia that one’s body may adversely react to.  Some adults, who may not have history of allergic reactions with mosquitoes can suffer from skeeter syndrome however, most have been previously exposed throughout their lives experience less severe reactions than children.

It is also believed, that as there are many different species of mosquitoes, they all carry different enzymes. This make-up may be the reason some experience the skeeter syndrome later in life or whilst traveling.

Symptoms of Skeeter Syndrome

Like many insect produced allergic reactions symptoms of Skeeter syndrome can appear instantly after the initial bite or can have a delayed onset of a few days. Some of the common signs your child might be experiencing skeeter syndrome are:

  • Abnormal swelling, redness or itchiness
  • A large lump forming at the site of the bite
  • The area might be hard or warm to touch
  • Small blisters may occur and spread to other parts of the body
  • Bacterial infections can occur as a result of excessive scratching

Although rare, some people can experience the more severe side effects of skeeter syndrome, including:

  • Anaphylaxis shock causing rapid swelling of the throat, breathing issues, rashes and low blood pressure.  Untreated cases, especially in children can result in death.
  • Severe swelling of the sub-dermal tissue known as angioedema
  • Asthma as a result of insufficient oxygen and breathing difficulties.

Treatment of Skeeter Syndrome

In the case of normal reactions where the person experiences mild symptoms, hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion should provide relief from itching.  In children, a cold ice pack can also assist. For more serious allergic reactions oral anti-histamines or lotions such as Benadryl or Claritin.  A cool bath with ice for approximately 10mins can bring relief to those with hives.

If you or your child experiences symptoms such as fever, body aches, shortness of breath or extreme swelling you should contact your doctor immediately.

Those with past experience of developing anaphylactic reactions should always carry an epinephrine pen with them as this is a life-threatening result of an allergic reaction.

The most effective way to ensure your child doesn’t suffer from an allergic reaction is to prevent the majority of mosquito bites from occurring.  Be vigilant about where your children play outdoors and the times they do so to reduce their exposure.  Dress your children in long sleeved clothing and apply a mosquito repellent recommend for children except on their face and hands. If you child is bitten, apply a calamine lotion to ease the itch and discourage scratching which can lead to infection.

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