Diagnosis

Doctors can usually identify mosquito bites by sight.

The red, itchy, painful swelling referred to as skeeter syndrome is sometimes mistaken for a secondary bacterial infection brought on by scratching and broken skin. Skeeter syndrome is actually the result of an allergic reaction to proteins in mosquito saliva. There's no simple blood test to detect mosquito antibodies in blood, so mosquito allergy is diagnosed by determining whether the large, red areas of swelling and itching occurred after you were bitten by mosquitoes.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Most mosquito bites stop itching and heal on their own in a few days. These self-care tips may make you more comfortable.

  • Apply a lotion, cream or paste. Putting calamine lotion or nonprescription hydrocortisone cream on the bite can help ease the itch. Or try dabbing the bite with a paste made of baking soda and water. Reapply several times daily until your symptoms go away.
  • Apply a cool compress. Try soothing the bite by applying a cold pack or a cool, moist cloth for a few minutes.
  • Take an oral antihistamine. For stronger reactions, try taking a nonprescription antihistamine (Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, others).
Transcript

There are millions of mosquitoes swarming this summer, sucking blood and leaving itchy, red bumps on the skin.

"Their saliva deposits in the skin from where the bite is, and it's causing a reaction to that saliva."

Dr. Summer Allen, a Mayo Clinic family physician, says some of the tried-and-true home remedies for treating mosquito bites work well. Calamine lotion, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream and even a cold compress can ease the itch.

"It's going to soothe and kind of calm down that intense burning and inflammation that they're feeling in their skin."

And, while it's not always easy, it's important to keep the itching to a minimum.

"If they itch it hard enough, or depending on what they use to itch their skin, they can cause a break in their skin. They can develop a bacterial infection."

Although using insect repellent and other prevention tips can reduce your chances of being bit, really, getting at least one skeeter bite this summer is almost inevitable.

"Time takes care of it, and try to do your best not to itch it if you can."

For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Jason Howland.

Preparing for your appointment

You won't need to see your doctor for a mosquito bite, unless you develop a fever or other signs and symptoms that sometimes develop after such bites.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Before your appointment make a list of:

  • Symptoms you've been having and for how long
  • All medications, vitamins and supplements you take, including the doses
  • Questions to ask your doctor

If you're having signs and symptoms you think might be related to a mosquito bite, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What can I do to stop the itch?
  • Is the area around my mosquito bite infected?
  • Does the medication you're prescribing have any side effects?
  • How will I know if I need additional care?

What you can do in the meantime

If itching is a problem, an over-the-counter antihistamine (Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, others) may help.

July 27, 2018
References
  1. AskMayoExpert. Viral encephalitis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
  2. AskMayoExpert. Malaria (adult and pediatric). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
  3. Bolognia JL, et al. Bites and stings. In: Dermatology Essentials. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Insect repellent (adult and pediatric). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  5. West Nile virus: Frequently asked questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/index.html. Accessed Aug. 13, 2015.
  6. Onyett H. Preventing mosquito and tick bites: A Canadian update. Pediatrics and Child Health. 2014;19:326. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4173961/. Accessed Aug. 14, 2015.
  7. Simons FER. Large local reactions to mosquito bites (skeeter syndrome). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 14, 2015.
  8. Beware of bug bites and stings. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048022.htm. Accessed Aug. 14, 2015.
  9. Insect repellent use and safety in children. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/ucm085277.htm. Accessed Aug. 14, 2015.
  10. Dengue. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/dengue. Accessed Aug. 14, 2015.
  11. About vector-borne diseases. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2014/vector-borne-diseases/en/. Accessed Aug. 14, 2015.
  12. Auerbach PS. Mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases. In: Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012.
  13. Auerbach PS. Protection from blood-feeding arthropods. In: Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012.
  14. Millman M. Mayo Clinic Guide to Self-Care. 6th ed. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2010.