During my summers at camp, I always ended up covered in mosquito bites, no matter how many cans of bug spray my mom packed in my trunk. My bunkmates taught me to stop the itching by digging an "X" into each bump with my nails, and I do it to this day (although I have no idea if it helps). Some bug bites, however, are in an itchy, swollen league of their own... which is what many refer to as "skeeter syndrome." Yes, skeeter syndrome is a real thing, and here's what experts want you to know about it.
You've probably seen firsthand that all bug bites are not created equal. Why does your child return from a day at the park with swollen, angry-looking tumors while your bug bites are small and hardly noticeable? Turns out, these inflamed, painful bumps, or skeeter syndrome, are actually allergic reactions to the bite. According to the Mayo Clinic, "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." In case mosquito bites aren't annoying enough on their own, your body (or your child's body) needs to revolt against them. So much fun!
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the inflammatory reaction of skeeter syndrome may develop within hours after the mosquito bite occurs. The typical symptoms of skeeter syndrome are similar to those of a normal bug bite, but on steroids. According to Health.com, symptoms include "swelling, heat, redness, and itching or pain." However, more extreme causes of skeeter syndrome have been documented in medical literature. Per Health.com, "faces can puff up, eyes can swell shut, and entire limbs can become red and swollen. In the most severe cases, mosquito bites can cause bruising and blistering. Some people can also experience a fever or vomiting or difficulty breathing." Luckily, the more severe cases of skeeter syndrome are very rare.
The good news is that, like a normal mosquito bite, the symptoms of skeeter syndrome will gradually disappear on their own. Because the symptoms can be so unpleasant and uncomfortable, the Mayo Clinic suggests a few over-the-counter remedies that can help. To help alleviate the itchiness, pick up some calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream from your nearest drugstore. If you'd rather go all-natural, mix up a paste made from baking soda and water, and spread that on the irritated area. Pop an oral antihistamine, like Benadryl, to get some relief (but only if you're able to sleep as soon as it hits). A simple cold compress can also do wonders to help with swelling and irritation.
If you (or your little one) begin vomiting or develop a fever in conjunction with the superficial skeeter syndrome symptoms, it's important to speak with your doctor. They'll be able to examine your bites, evaluate your symptoms, and give you a personalized plan-of-action for a more aggressive case of skeeter syndrome.
Of course, the best thing you can do for you and your babies is to prevent mosquito bites (as best you can) when you're outdoors — especially during prime mosquito time. According to MosquitoMagnet.com, mosquitos typically become an issue once the temperature hits 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring, and mosquito volume increases right along with temperature. Mosquitos are at their worst during the hot summer months, and they'll die off (or begin to hibernate) once the temperature begins to dip back down below that 50-degree Fahrenheit mark. During mosquito season, make it a habit to spray everyone down with bug spray before heading outside, no matter what time of day. If you are headed somewhere that is particularly buggy, opt for clothing that covers more skin.
Mosquito bites are annoying, and skeeter syndrome is worse. Fortunately, skeeter syndrome doesn't pose a serious threat to your or your family. With a little prevention, and some TLC if a bite occurs, you'll come out of mosquito season unscathed.