We’ve all had a lovely outing ruined by an armful of mosquito bites. But most people think of mosquitoes as little more than annoyances. (HUGE annoyances, of course, but just annoyances.) And since, for most Americans, cases of Zika, malaria, West Nile virus, and more seem to always be happening someplace else, we don’t really think too much about the dangerous diseases mosquitoes can transmit.
But many mosquito-borne diseases have all been found in the United States. In fact, in 2016, 47 states reported cases of West Nile Virus. It’s important to be aware of mosquito bite symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
Standing water breeding billions of post-hurricane mosquitoes, could transmit diseases like West Nile Virus. https://t.co/kTdRwlS6a7
— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) September 10, 2017
Since many symptoms associated with mosquito-borne illnesses are common symptoms experienced with other sicknesses, we aren’t trained to think about these symptoms in relationship to mosquito bites. But recognizing the correlation at the right time will help you get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
The Big Three Mosquito Bite Symptoms
The three most common symptoms of mosquito-borne illnesses are:
And since we’re used to occasionally experiencing these symptoms, with or without another sickness, it can be difficult to pin them down as mosquito related. That’s why it’s important to simply pay attention to your body once you’ve been bitten by a mosquito.
If you experience these symptoms, and you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, get to your doctor and make sure you tell her about the mosquito bite — even if it has healed.
Combinations of Symptoms
These particular combinations of mosquito bite symptoms may indicate specific mosquito-borne illnesses.
- Fever, headache, fatigue, backache, body aches, stiff neck, vomiting, or nausea, confusion, or tremors could indicate West Nile Virus.
- Fever, headache, fatigue, joint pain and swelling, or a rash could indicate Chikungunya. Joint pain can be extreme and can last for days or months.
- Fever; headache; fatigue; light sensitivity; chills; vomiting and nausea; redness of the tongue, face, and eyes; and aches and pains could indicate Yellow Fever.
- Fever, headache, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, low body temperature, sweating, chills, and anxiety could indicate malaria.
- Fever, headache, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, lethargy, stiff neck, and confusion could indicate Arboviral Encephalitis.
- Fever, headache, fatigue, bleeding gums, pain in the muscles, pain in the bones, pain in the joints, and pain behind the eyes could indicate Dengue Fever.
- Fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes may indicate Zika virus.
How to Treat Mosquito Bites
Treating mosquito bites is fortunately very simple.
- Wash the affected area with soap and water.
- Use a cold compress to reduce swelling, if you’d like.
- Apply a topical ointment, like Deter Bug Bite Therapy, to relieve itching.
- Pay attention to your health.
An Ounce of Prevention
While you can’t ever be completely confident you’ll avoid mosquito bites, you do have the power to do quite a bit of prevention:
- Repair holes in any screens on your house, and cover gaps in your walls and doors.
- Because mosquitoes breed in still pools of water, eliminate standing water from your property. Think of less-obvious places, like abandoned toys and gutters.
- Avoid, or be extra cautious around, marshy areas — or anywhere with pools of water.
- Time your outdoor activities to avoid dawn and dusk, when many species of mosquito are most active.
- When outdoors, dress in clothing that covers your skin, and even tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants for extra protection.
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin — and reapply every four hours while outdoors.