Allergy

25 September 2015

Could you be allergic to mosquito bites?

For some people a mosquito bite is far more than an irritation and actually have what’s called Skeeter Syndrome, or an allergy to mosquito saliva which can trigger a bad reaction.

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Along with summer's hot days and warm nights come a marked increase in mosquitoes.

And there’s only one thing worse than that tell-tale whine in the darkness, and that’s the infuriating itch that follows a mosquito bite.

For some people however, a mosquito bite is far more than an irritation; some people have what’s  called Skeeter Syndrome, or an allergy to mosquito saliva which can trigger a far more impressive reaction to a mosquito bite than it would in other people.

According to Dr Sarah Karabus,  a Cape Town Paediatrician and Allergologist practicing at Thriving Kids, Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Skeeter Syndrome is actually far more common than you would think.

“Mosquito bite allergy is an extremely common occurrence and is something I see every day at work,” she said.

The allergy is relatively easy to identify as it presents with unusually large swelling accompanied with severe itching, sometimes blistering and fever and in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock.

Although most people have a reaction to a mosquito bite, the bites on people who have Skeeter Syndrome resemble  a bee sting with extreme swelling.

Read: Why mosquitoes love you and how to repel them

The cause of Skeeter Syndrome

The syndrome is caused by an allergy to a thinning agent in the mosquito’s saliva  and the reaction can sometimes take up to 48 hours to fully develop.

Although it is most common in young children and toddlers, there have been cases of adults with no previous adverse reaction to mosquito bites, developing the condition.

The cause for this is not yet known although it could be due to the many different species of mosquito which all have slightly different enzymes in their saliva.

Read:All about insect bite allergies

Treatment options

According to Dr Karabus the best thing to do is to try avoid being bitten by a mosquito if you are allergic. She suggests taking as many precautions as possible such as sleeping under a mosquito net, using mosquito repellent sprays/creams/vapours.

However if you do suffer from a mosquito bite allergy and you do get bitten, Dr Karabus advises your best course of action is to take an antihistamine and apply a topical cortisone cream to alleviate the itch and swelling.

The good news, she says, is that people do often out-grow this allergy in one to two years. If you are concerned you or your child may have this allergy, contact an allergist for an appointment.

Read more:

Insect bites from Natural Standard

What’s making your skin itch?

How to manage insect bites

Refences: Dr Sarah Karabus,  a Cape Town Paediatrician and Allergologist practicing at Thriving Kids, Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital 

Skeeter Syndrome

 

Ask the Expert

Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies. obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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