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Skeeter Syndrome

Updated on December 19, 2013

Skeeter syndrome refers to an allergic reaction that arises due to contact with polypeptides that are present in mosquito saliva. Skeeter syndrome is uncommon and not contagious. In most instances, people who are prone to allergic reactions are most likely to experience the illness.

Skeeter syndrome can occur along with severe itchiness, swelling, infection, blistering, and fever. Sometimes, affected individuals may experience asthma, anaphylactic shock, and cellulitis. Most affected individuals will elicit some kind of allergic reaction along with redness and itchiness, while those at greater risk to skeeter syndromewill suffer from severe reactions.

The swelling associated with skeeter syndromeresembles a bee sting and can cause the eyes to swell up and shut, double the size of the affected limb, and result in increased warmth and hardness of the affected areas. Occasionally, the mosquito bite will develop into a blister and discharge fluids. The swelling may be painfully severe and occur along with general malaise or minor fever. Extreme cases of skeeter syndrome can result in asthmatic attacks, anaphylactic shock, and other deadly complications.

Skeeter syndrome can occur in individuals from all age groups. However, toddlers and young children are most commonly affected.

Symptoms of Skeeter Syndrome

The symptoms of Skeeter syndrome can occur suddenly after the initial mosquito bite, or have a delayed onset. The condition may occur as a normal mosquito bite, which can then develop into a big welt some days after the bite. Some people who have never experienced any allergic reactions to mosquito bites may develop skeeter syndrome without the occurrence of any obvious physiological changes.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of skeeter syndrome are listed below:

  • Abnormal swelling, redness, and itchiness
  • Some swelling and redness normally occur with any kind of normal mosquito bite. However, the swelling that occurs along with skeeter syndrome is more visible and can look similar to a bee sting.
  • A reddish lump may form at the site of the mosquito bite.
  • The area of the mosquito bite may be hard and hot/warm to touch. The allergic reaction causes the affected area to harden and cause feverish sensations on touch.
  • The abnormal symptoms can persist for many days after the first bite. The inflammation is severe and the lumps are firm.
  • Sometimes the welts may migrate to other parts of the body. Large bumps and swelling can form on areas of the body other than that with the mosquito bite.
  • The location of the original mosquito bite may also develop blisters and bruises.
  • Patients may scratch the affected areas to alleviate the itchiness. Excessive scratching can break open the skin and cause secondary bacterial infections of the resultant wounds. On healing, such wounds can leave scar marks.

In rare cases, some individuals with skeeter syndrome may suffer from deadly reactions to the mosquito bites. People who experience any of the below listed symptoms must seek immediate medical attention:

  • A severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis wherein the affected patients experience rapid onset of serious symptoms such as swelling of the throat, breathing problems, itchy rashes, and low blood pressure, etc. Untreated cases can even result in death.
  • A condition called angioedema that is characterized by severe swelling of the sub-dermal tissue.
  • Asthmatic reactions such as problems in getting sufficient oxygen, breathlessness, etc.

Causes of Skeeter Syndrome

Skeeter syndrome is caused due to an allergic reaction to the polypeptides occurring in the saliva of a mosquito. The insect injects it into the skin during the bite so as to thin the blood.

It may be noted that the human blood is too dense for a mosquito to effectively suck out or draw. Hence, the insect first injects a blood-thinning agent into its prey. The thinning agent occurring in the mosquito’s saliva is what eventually results in the allergic reaction associated with skeeter syndrome.

The body adversely responds to the enzymes occurring in the saliva leading to discomfort, swelling, and blistering. The allergic reaction may not be instant in every case. The symptoms may often develop 48 hours after the initial mosquito bite.

People who do not have any history of abnormal reactions to mosquito bites can also suffer from a sudden onset of skeeter syndrome. Doctors are not aware of the exact cause of the allergic reaction, although it has been associated with some kind of autoimmune response to the enzymes.

There are many different species of mosquitoes and the saliva of each of these species may have somewhat different types of enzymes. Hence humans may suffer from allergic reactions to the bites of certain species of mosquitoes, while experiencing minimal or no reaction to others. This may be one of the reasons why people with no history of allergic reactions to mosquito bites develop skeeter syndrome when travelling to a different state or country.

Treatment of Skeeter Syndrome

As is the case with most types of allergic reactions, treatment for skeeter syndrome is aimed at controlling the symptoms and preventing the onset of medical complications. Doctors will prescribe treatment as and when the symptoms occur, or they may preempt them and prevent it with medications. Individuals who are prone to skeeter syndrome or other allergic reactions to mosquito bites must keep a medical kit at home to treat abnormal symptoms as and when they appear.

Individuals affected by severe skeeter syndrome symptoms such as extreme swelling, breathing difficulties, and/or shortness of breath must consult a doctor for proper treatment. Early treatment is the best way to prevent any undue health complications.

  • Itchiness, burning sensations, pain, and swelling can be treated with oral and topical antihistamines, pain medications, and corticosteroids. These medicines will also aid in reduction of asthmatic symptoms as also restrict the formation of blisters in other parts of the body.
  • People who are at risk to developing anaphylactic reactions as part of skeeter syndrome should always carry a shot of epinephrine with them. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition and hence requires emergency care, even after the epinephrine shot.

Itchiness and other minor symptoms can also be alleviated with home remedies such as baking soda and water paste, meat tenderizers, and apple cider vinegar.

Skeeter Syndrome Pictures


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