For many people, getting a mosquito bite is a minor nuisance. It causes a small, itchy bump that goes away after a few days. However, for some people, a mosquito bite can cause severe allergic-like symptoms.
When this happens, it’s called skeeter syndrome. This inflammatory condition is also known as mosquito syndrome or mosquito bite allergy.
In most people, a mosquito bite causes mild, localized symptoms. This means the irritation is limited to the site of the mosquito bite.
If you have skeeter syndrome, you’ll also develop a localized allergic reaction. However, the symptoms will cover a larger area, which can range from a few centimeters to more than 10 centimeters wide.
Depending on the severity of the reaction, the area around the mosquito bite might have the following symptoms:
- extreme itchiness
- large hives
- low grade fever
- anaphylaxis (rare)
Anaphylaxis is a potentially life threatening allergic reaction. Go to the nearest emergency room or call emergency services, like 911, if you experience:
- throat swelling
- difficulty breathing
A mosquito bites you to suck up blood. It does this by puncturing your skin with its proboscis, a needle-like mouthpart.
When this happens, the mosquito also injects saliva into your skin. The saliva contains proteins.
In most people, these proteins cause a minor immune response. But if you have skeeter syndrome, your immune system overreacts to the proteins, causing a more serious allergic-like reaction.
The exact cause of the reaction is unknown. However, the following people might have a higher risk of skeeter syndrome:
- people with a high level of mosquito exposure (such as outdoor workers)
- babies and young children, who have lower natural immunity
- people visiting an area with types of mosquitoes that have not bitten them before
- people with a compromised immune system
After a typical mosquito bite, irritation peaks after 20 minutes. The health effects usually disappear within a few days.
But in skeeter syndrome, the symptoms last significantly longer. Generally, the local reaction progresses over 8 to 12 hours or more. It can take several weeks for the symptoms to resolve.
Skeeter syndrome can pose the following complications:
- skin infection (from scratched and broken skin)
Skeeter syndrome during pregnancy
Hypotension and hypoxemia are harmful to both the parent and fetus. It can also cause brain damage in a fetus.
Additional signs of anaphylaxis during pregnancy include:
- lower back pain
- uterine cramps
- vulvar or vaginal itching
Anaphylaxis can also cause premature labor.
The goal of treatment is to manage the skin-related symptoms. It also involves preventing the severity of the allergic reaction.
Here’s what you can do to ease your symptoms at home:
- Raise the affected area to reduce swelling.
- Apply a cold compress to the bite to manage pain and swelling.
- Clean the blisters with water and gentle soap.
- Apply colloidal oatmeal to soothe the itch.
The following over-the-counter (OTC) products can help manage your symptoms:
If you have a history of severe allergies, your doctor might recommend injectable epinephrine. This medication, often called an EpiPen, can stop anaphylaxis.
If you develop anaphylaxis after getting a mosquito bite, get medical help immediately.
Also visit a doctor if you get a mosquito bite and have:
- severe swelling or pain
- swelling or pain that persists after using home remedies
- signs of a skin infection
- high fever
- difficulty breathing
In most cases, a doctor can diagnose a mosquito allergy by looking at your mosquito bite. They can do this during a physical exam.
During the exam, they’ll check your bite for the following signs:
- skin discoloration
If the doctor thinks you have a mosquito bite allergy, they might have you meet with an allergist.
It’s not possible to prevent skeeter syndrome. That’s because you can’t control how your immune system reacts to certain proteins.
If you have skeeter syndrome, the best way to prevent a reaction is to reduce your risk of mosquito bites. It’s also important to create a treatment plan with a doctor.
This way, if you’re bitten by a mosquito, you’ll be able to prevent a bad reaction before it happens.
There are several ways to reduce or prevent mosquito bites if you have skeeter syndrome:
- Stay indoors at dusk and dawn. Mosquitoes are most active at these times.
- Avoid standing water, like large puddles.
- Avoid wearing bright clothing and fragrances, which can attract mosquitoes.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and high socks.
- Use an insect repellent that contains DEET.
Skeeter syndrome is a rare inflammatory condition. It involves an exaggerated immune reaction to mosquito bites.
Possible symptoms include swelling, high fever, firm welts, and blisters. Sometimes, it can cause anaphylaxis, a life threatening reaction.
If you have skeeter syndrome, the best way to prevent a bad reaction is to reduce your risk of mosquito bites. Your doctor may also recommend injectable epinephrine to prevent anaphylaxis.