Mosquito bites are worse than their buzz

By Kathy Hubbard

In Bonner County we have neither the type of mosquito that spreads the Zika virus nor the ones that transmit West Nile Virus. It’s unlikely we’ll ever get Zika infected mosquitos as our climate isn’t conducive to them, but, there are cases of WNV in the southern end of our state, and a couple of years ago there was an instance in Boundary County where WNV infected mosquitos were found, but there were no reports of any persons or any animals being bitten.

According to Idaho Health and Welfare, “Although anyone encountering a West Nile virus-positive mosquito has a chance of being infected most infections do not lead to illness. In other words, 80 percent of infections are thought to be asymptomatic. The remaining 20 percent of infections may lead to illness ranging from mild to severe.

“The severe symptoms may include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.” If you experience any of these symptoms see your healthcare professional quickly. Although there is no specific treatment for the infection, the symptoms can be treated.

Although we can sleep better at night knowing we have little chance of serious viral infection, the itch from a common mosquito bite may keep us awake. Especially for those of us who have a strong allergic reaction to mosquito saliva.

Yes, that’s what those pests leave behind when they bite us. It’s an anti-coagulant protein and with due respect to Dracula, it makes our blood easier to drink.

“Researchers are unclear as to the reasons, but mosquitoes tend to prefer certain victims over others, including men, people who are overweight or obese, and those with type O blood.” Healthline.com says. “Also, because mosquitoes are attracted to heat, wearing dark colors (which absorb heat) may make a person more likely to be bitten.”

A report on CBS recently quoted Dr. Jon Steadman of Medical Center of McKinney in Texas as saying that pregnant women, athletes and those who drink alcohol also have high risk for mosquito bites. The theory is that pregnant women exhale more carbon dioxide which works as an attractor and that alcohol raises your body temperature which also makes you more desirable. The higher level of lactic acid of one who’s working out can also be the reason mosquitoes bite some of us and not others.

There are dozens of home remedies for preventing mosquito bites. From Avon’s Skin So Soft to Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Oil Cream. If they work for you that’s terrific, but if you want tried and true you need to find products that contain at least 20 percent DEET. Other bug-repellant ingredients are picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, and IR3535.

And talking about home remedies, you can only imagine how many there are for eliminating the itch when you do get a bite. I just heard about heating a metal spoon in very hot water and putting it on the bite. This trick is supposed to boil the proteins the mosquito left behind, and although the red mark will survive, the itching will go away.

Some say that a hot towel works just as well as the spoon others suggest using ice to numb the skin and constrict the blood vessels. Some advocate using anti-itch solutions such as Stingeze and After Bite and I’ve read about putting mouthwash or toothpaste on bites.

Lemon or lime slices, onions, banana peels may sound like an odd dinner combination, but are all supposed to relieve the itchies when applied to the skin. One suggestion was to make a paste out of baking soda and another was to crush an aspirin or Tums tablet in a bit of water. Round out the home remedies by rubbing on Vicks Vapo Rub, Preparation H, Orajel or Mylanta, oh my!

My suggestion is to do whatever works for you. One thing you really don’t want to do is scratch the bites. Breaking the skin can lead to infection. Try slapping the bite instead. Call your primary care provider if the bites are making you extremely uncomfortable.

Personally, I think I’ll stay indoors and wonder why I complain about winter.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.