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Eight Things You Need to Know about Mosquitos and their Bites

Update Date: Aug 09, 2014 09:05 AM EDT

In certain regions of the world, when the humidity picks up, mosquitos make their return. These little pests not only leave itchy bites behind, they can also infect people with potentially dangerous diseases. Here are eight facts you need to know about mosquitoes and their bites:

1. Not all Mosquitos Bite

Even though it might seem like every mosquito you come across bites, not all mosquitoes do. There are around 170 different kinds of mosquitos living in North America and roughly 3,500 throughout the world. Out of all the mosquito species that do bite, only the females actually suck people's blood because the blood provides a protein that helps them produce eggs. Only two out of the many species that reside in the United States can actually spread disease. These two species are the Aedes aeypti and the Aedes albopictus, which is also known as the Asian tiger mosquito.

2. Researchers do not know if Mosquitos are Attracted to Blood Type

People who get bitten a lot by mosquitos often believe that the little insects are attracted to their blood. However, there is very little evidence that mosquitos like one blood type over another. The studies that claim that mosquitos have blood type preference have been disputed many times.

3. Mosquitoes like Carbon Dioxide

Researchers have found evidence that mosquitos tend to bite people who emit higher levels of carbon dioxide, which include pregnant women and people who consume a lot of beer.

"Mosquitoes find hosts by detecting body heat and chemical signals," stated Dr. Jorge Parada, MD, medical director of the Loyola University Medical System Infection Control Program and advisor to the National Pest Management Association according to TIME. "It is possible that these factors contribute to increased production of carbon dioxide, making it easier for mosquitoes to sense human presence."

4. Level of Itchiness Ranges per Person

Even though the majority of mosquito bites feel somewhat itchy, the severity of the itchiness varies per person. For some people, a mosquito bite can lead to swollenness or hives. People who have these reactions tend to deal with a higher severity of itchiness.

5. Scratching Makes it Worse

Even though you might want to scratch the bite, it is important to try and resist. Once you scratch the bite, it will only get worse. Mosquito bites itch because the body responds to the insect's saliva by producing histamine. When you scratch a bite, it can cause the body to increase its production of histamine, which makes the itchiness worse.

Dr. Parada added, "Additionally, over-scratching might cause breaks in the skin that can leave room for an infection."

6. OTC Meds Help

The best way to handle a mosquito bite is to wash it first with mild soap and cold water. This process will slightly relieve the itchiness. If the itchiness is unbearable, using anti-inflammatories or topical antihistamines can help. Over the counter one percent hydrocortisone cream or Benadryl gel are just two options.

7. Bites can Spread Viruses

Even though only a few species of mosquitoes can carry diseases, the ones they do can be very painful. For example, the Chikunguya infection causes painful symptoms. However, there is no vaccine or drug treatment option for it.

"Chikungunya is generally not fatal," stated Dr. Parada. "But the painful symptoms have led people to say 'It won't kill you, but it may make you wish you were dead!'"

Another and more fatal infection is the West Nile. Even though the West Nile is considered mild for most people, when the virus infects seniors, diabetics and people with jeopardized immune systems, it can become dangerous.

8. Not all Mosquito Repellants are Equal

Mosquito repellants are important especially if people are spending a lot of time outdoors. However, not all repellants are made the same. Different repellants contain varying levels of the ingredient that wards off mosquitos. If you have a product made with lower concentrations, you should use it more frequently.

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