Summertime is in full swing. That means lots of time spend outside enjoying the warm weather. But it is also means more bug bites.
Now no one likes a mosquito bite. They’re irritating and unsightly. But it turns out giving in to that universal urge to scratch the itch produced by a mosquito bit could be downright dangerous.
Researchers say that the swelling and inflammation that are seen with mosquito bites can help dangerous viruses such as Zika or West Nile infect and spread faster through your body. And as anyone who has had a mosquito bite can tell you scratching the bites causes them to swell up like angry little mountains. (More on that in a moment.)
A recent animal study took a closer look at the bites that come from the Aedes aegypt mosquito, which is the little bugger responsible for transmitting dengue fever, Chikungunya and Zika.
Bug spit helps to spread viruses!
They divided the mice into groups with one group being bitten by a mosquito carrying viruses and the other being injected with live viruses. According to the results published in the journal Immunity, the researchers found that the saliva from the biting mosquitoes caused white blood cells to high-tail it to the bite site triggering swelling.
White blood cells are the heart of your immune system. These cells, also known as leukocytes help protect your body against infectious disease.
But in the case of these mosquito bites instead of fighting off the infection some of the cells became infected. Once the white blood cells were infected they were capable of spreading the virus to still more cells spreading the infection like wildfire.
The mice that were given the virus injections, on the other hand, didn’t have the same inflammatory immune response so the infection. As a result the virus didn’t quickly spread to other cells throughout their bodies.
Survival rates skyrocketed by 400%!
When researchers reduced the itching, inflammation and swelling that resulted from bites they were surprised to see the infections weren’t as severe.
But most importantly inhibiting the inflammation slashed the risk of death. In fact the mice survival rate shot through the roof increasing by 400 percent, jumping from 10 percent to 50 percent.
We don’t know for sure how this translates to humans, these were mice after all. But we do know that just like mice these diseases can kill people too. In fact experts tell us over a million people perish every year to infections spread by mosquitoes.
Stop scratching mosquito bites!
So what does this mean for you out there in the real world enjoying your summertime fun?
Well first of all if you do get bitten don’t scratch the bite! We now know that the inflammation at the site of the bite can help spread the infection.
Since we’re all guilty of mindlessly scratching a bite putting a Band-Aid or even just a piece of Scotch Tape over the bite will serve as a reminder to not scratch.
And the good news is that by not scratching you interrupt the histamine process that causes the itch to hang around and get worse. So the urge to scratch will start to fade away.
While you’re waiting for the itch to subside, if you just can’t stand the irritation there are a couple of home remedies that folks swear by for killing the itch of a mosquito bite.
Stop the itch with these 8 home remedies
Here are 8 itch stoppers to consider…
|Home Remedies to Relieve Bug Bite Itch|
|2. Aloe vera|
|3. Witch Hazel|
|4. Rubbing Alcohol|
|5. Basil leaf (rub across bite gently)|
|6. Listerine mouthwash|
|7. Preparation H|
|8. Aspirin paste (crush tablet with a little water)|
But, of course, the best way to handle a mosquito bite is to just avoid getting one in the first place.
5 tips for avoiding mosquito bites
Below are some tips to do just that…
1. Watch out for water:
Avoid hanging out near standing water—mosquitoes love the stuff—and make sure there aren’t any spots that water is accumulating around your own yard, such as in empty flower pots or old tires.
2. Block bugs:
Block the little vampires from getting into your home by doing a window screen check to make sure yours are all in good repair. Patch any holes or replace any unrepairable screens.
3. Opt for air:
Sleep with an oscillating fan on in your room. Mosquitoes aren’t such great fliers and the air will keep them from settling on your body.
4. Drive them away:
When you are enjoying your outdoor spaces use a bug zapper and citronella candles or torches to keep the area mosquito free.
5. Use natural mosquito deterrents:
Essential oils can serve as a safe, natural mosquito deterrent. Ones to consider are peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, cedar, rose geranium oils. Don’t use essential oils alone directly on your skin. They need to be used in a carrier oil. If you’d like to learn more about natural mosquito deterrents, including a recipe to make a simple batch at home, click here.
For more information on Zika, and how you can help protect your family against this dangerous infection you can download Healthier Talks FREE Zika Virus Survival Guide by clicking here.
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