Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
It is a common misnomer to declare the ceaselessly tiresome red swelling on one’s arm a mosquito “bite.” A mosquito doesn’t so much as bite as pierce the skin and draw blood in a similar vein as a phlebotomist. Furthermore, the primary reason why that itching is so persistent has as much to do with the person as it does the mosquito.
Why Do People Itch?
Recent scientific studies indicate that all itching may be caused by a molecule called natriuretic polypeptide b (Nppb), which is released by the heart and sent to the brain via the spinal column. It is quite likely that without this molecule being sent to the brain one could avoid the itching from the mosquito altogether. Essentially, instead of being angry at the mosquito one could be angry at their own heart, spine or brain.
Why Does the Mosquito Want Your Blood?
It is understandable for one to think a mosquito is sucking your blood like a vampire for greedy sustenance. This isn’t really the case. Male mosquitoes gather nutrients from plant nectar and sugar sources as do the females. However, females require blood for their eggs and reproduction.
A Short Narrative From Proboscis to Fingernail
A female mosquito locates its prey, lands on it, and pierces the flesh with its proboscis. The proboscis is like a long needle, but victims rarely feel the “bite”; they more often feel the reaction. The mosquito finishes drawing blood and flies off, or perhaps is squished in the process. The human response that follows is why mosquito bites itch.
In order to draw blood quickly and effortlessly, the saliva of the mosquito contains an anti-coagulate so the blood flow remains constant. This saliva causes the human immune system to send antibodies to the intruder, which in turn triggers histamine. You may notice that “anti-histamines” are a common term to describe anti-allergy products. It is the histamines that cause blood vessels near the bite to swell up and display a physical queue of where to scratch.
Scratching this area and digging into it with fingernails, poking an X on it and other assorted physical voodoo may work are but temporary victories in the battle against the itch. These “victories” eventually lead to even more itching and pain because the immune system kicks in, yet again, to help by sending in more antibody soldiers and resulting in more heartache. The itching is not first and foremost on the mind of the immune system. The immune system wants the saliva-intruder out by any means necessary.
Developing a Tolerance to Mosquito Bites
Many children and adults get allergy shots to help reduce severe immune response to offending histamines. On a similar principle, the human body may grow more tolerant of mosquito bites over time. Still, it is not recommended that you purchase mosquito saliva and inject yourself with it nor go outside amongst a swarm of hungry mosquitoes in hopes of being “cured.”
Blame not the mosquito as much as the person for the bites and subsequent itch.
The more you sweat, breathe and efficiently process cholesterol, the higher the likelihood of attracting mosquitoes. A mosquito also chooses its blood supply by sight. Therefore, preventative measures often include general avoidance of any area where mosquitoes exist.
The itch is an immune response you need if you were to consider what might occur if a swarm of mosquitoes were able to painlessly and itchlessly suck out enough blood for its victim to die. This immune response prevents such an occurrence with the mere cost of an itch. It’s a worthy compromise.