How to Avoid Diseases from Mosquito Bites on Face
Suffering from mosquito bites on face and other parts of the body are to be expected once summer rolls around. Hot and wet summers usually mean an increase in the number of mosquitos, which also equals an upsurge in mosquito bite cases. Generally, these bites are just an annoyance, but there are some instances where they may be a cause for concern.
What You Need to Know About Mosquitos
Mosquitos are tiny flying insects that live on the blood of animals and humans. They draw blood by sliding a tiny tube into a vein. In order to prevent blood from clotting at the site where they are biting, mosquitos inject a tiny amount of coagulant.
The anticoagulant causes a reaction from your immune system, resulting in inflammation in the bite area. Thus, there is a red bump with a small dot in the center where the actual bite took place, and the area around the bite has a reddish color.
At present there are 176 recognized species of mosquito in the US. While the majority of these are harmless, there are some species that can spread serious diseases. The two that are most prevalent are:
Mainly daytime, but can also bite at night
can also bite at night
Evening until morning
The Centers for Disease Control has warned that mosquitos capable of spreading deadly diseases may potentially invade around three-quarters of the mainland US. The CDC attributed the spread of disease carrying insects to higher temperatures brought about by climate change. This has increased the range for many species of mosquitos and lengthened their biting season. In addition, diseases that previously had been believed eliminated in the US, such as yellow fever, may also return as public health threats.
Diseases Carried by Mosquitoes
Mosquitos are among the deadliest creatures in the world since the diseases they carry and spread kill millions of people every year. Some of the most common diseases you can get from mosquito bites on face and body in the US include:
Dengue. Dengue is mainly found in areas with tropical climates, both urban and rural, and is prevalent in more than 128 countries. According to the World Health Organization estimates, worldwide there may be 50 million to 100 million dengue infections annually.
Symptoms of dengue appear from 4 to 10 days after being bitten by infected mosquitos. They include high fever accompanied by joint and muscle pains, swollen glands, severe headache, rash, vomiting, nausea and pain behind the eyes. The disease may develop into a more severe form whose symptoms include persistent vomiting, decrease in temperature, rapid breathing, severe abdominal pain, blood in vomit, fatigue, bleeding gums and rapid breathing.
Severe cases of dengue may result in death, particularly among children. Once the disease is diagnosed, medical care for the next 24 to 48 hours is critical to prevent complications and avoid death. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for dengue, which is why early detection and medical care are crucial to lower the fatality rate to below one percent.
Zika. Although Zika is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites, the virus may also be sexually transmitted, which is of concern to pregnant women due to the possibility of adverse fetal outcomes. The incubation period has not clearly been determined although it is probably just a few days.
The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and include conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, headache, skin rashes, fever and malaise. Symptoms will likely last from 2 to 7 days and are generally mild. However, when pregnant women are infected with Zika, there is a risk that the virus may be transmitted to the fetuses. Infected babies may develop microcephaly and other congenital brain abnormalities, which generally result in death.
In February 2018, the CDC identified congenital Zika syndrome, a pattern of birth defects that are unique to babies that have been infected with the virus before birth. The five features of the syndrome are: decreased brain tissue reflecting a particular pattern of brain damage, hypertonia that restricts body movement soon after the baby is born, severe microcephaly, which means that the baby’s skull is partly collapsed, damage to the rear of the eye and congenital contractures such as arthrogryposis or clubfoot.
Zika is tentatively diagnosed based on the symptoms as well as if the infected patient has traveled to areas where there have been active outbreaks of the disease. The diagnosis is confirmed via blood tests and other laboratory tests on urine and saliva.
Since the symptoms are mild, no specific treatment is required. Patients should get lots of rest, drink a lot of fluids and use medications to treat symptoms such as fever and pain. However, if symptoms worsen, the patient should seek medical advice.
Women who are potentially exposed to Zika should use condoms in order to avoid pregnancy. If they are pregnant and show symptoms of Zika, they should be tested to confirm if they have the disease.
Chikungunya. This disease is transmitted by the same mosquitoes that carry the dengue and zika viruses. Patients usually develop symptoms from 3 to 7 days after being bitten and the most common symptoms include severe joint pain and fever, as well as rash, muscle pain, swollen joints and rash.
Most people infected with chikungunya will feel better within a week, although a few may continue to experience joint pain for months afterward. In some very rare cases, the infection may be fatal. Those who are vulnerable for more severe symptoms include newborn infants, adults sixty-five years and older and those with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
There are no treatments for chikungunya and patients should treat the symptoms by getting lots of rest, take common medications such as paracetamol and acetaminophen and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of liquids. However, patients should avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin until it has been determined that they do not have dengue in order to avoid the risk of bleeding.
Chikunguya may be diagnosed through blood tests to determine the presence of the virus. Make sure that you tell your doctor if you have been traveling to countries where chikunguya is prevalent to facilitate diagnosis. If you have been infected, avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes for the first week since they can pick up the virus from your blood. Infected mosquitoes can then transmit the disease to others.
West Nile. Eight out of ten people who are infected with the West Nile virus will display no symptoms. However, around 1 in 5 may develop Febrile illness, which has symptoms such as joint pains, rash, diarrhea, joint and body pains and headache. The majority of those who are infected with this disease will fully recover, although symptoms such as weakness and fatigue may linger for weeks or even months.
A very few people, around 1 in 150, will develop more severe illnesses such as encephalitis and meningitis, which affect the central nervous system. Around 10% of those who develop severe illnesses die. Symptoms include stiff neck, disorientation, high fever, stupor, high fever, convulsions, tremors, numbness, muscle weakness, loss of vision and coma. The incubation period before the patient develops symptoms is from 3 to 14 days.
While anybody can develop this illness, individuals over sixty are those who are most at risk, as well as people who suffer from conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and cancer. Recovery may take weeks or months, although damage to the nervous system may be permanent.
In mild cases, the infection may be treated using common over-the-counter medication to relieve symptoms and reduce pain. More serious cases may require hospitalization to receive supportive care such as prevention of secondary infections and respiratory support, since there are no vaccines available for human use.
There have been outbreaks of dengue and chikunguya in parts of Florida, Texas and Hawaii, as well as US territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. These outbreaks also mean a higher risk of an outbreak of zika.
Outbreaks can result when mosquitos bite people who have contracted zika, dengue and chikunguya during the first week of infection, since this is when they are most infectious. If the mosquito lives long enough to bite other people, they can spread the disease. Once the cycle of infection has happened often enough, an outbreak happens.
According to the CDC’s Vital Signs report that was published in May 2018, reported cases of vector-borne diseases have increased to 96,075 in 2016 from 27,388 in 2004, a more than triple increase. Vector-borne diseases are those that are transmitted by vectors, ticks and insects that feed on blood and are capable of spreading pathogens.
Mosquito bites on face are generally just a nuisance for adults. For children, however, there are two concerns that parents may have, namely whether the bite is infected and if the presence of bites might cause them to miss the early signs of chickenpox.
The most alarming mosquito bites are those on the eyelid, since they can become swollen. Due to inflammation, a lot of fluid can accumulate in the eyelid, particularly if you lie down to sleep after being bitten.
If it is just a simple bite, there is only swelling due to the loose skin of the eyelid. Generally, only the upper or lower lid is swollen, and the swelling is pale pink. The swelling will also feel soft, as if you were touching a balloon filled with water. Although the eyelid may be itchy, there will be no pain.
On the other hand, if the eyelid becomes infected, then both eyelids will have redness. The redness may be a deeper hue that is an angry red. The eyelids will also feel hot and painful, and there may be a buildup of pus. In this case, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or other remedies to treat the infection.
Another concern of parents is that they may miss the early signs of chickenpox by mistaking it for mosquito bites. Although the red spots of mosquito bites look similar to chickenpox rash, there are significant differences. Chickenpox starts with red spots, which will become blisters and eventually scabs. Mosquito bites will eventually dry out and disappear, or have become scabs if the person has scratched the bite. However, chickenpox will eventually develop into tiny blisters filled with yellow pus.
Thus, parents whose children have been bitten by mosquitos on the face should get in touch with their doctor if they have any concerns. However, it may be not as serious as it looks, since children have strong immune systems and thus, the inflammation may be more dramatic. So you should keep the above information in mind to avoid worrying too much.
Protecting Yourself Against Mosquito Bites
One of the best ways to protect against mosquito bites on face and body is by using insect repellant. The CDC recommends using repellant that has been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and contains the following ingredients: DEET, 2-undecanone, IR3535, Picaridin and paramenthane-diol (PMD) or oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). These products are safe even for pregnant women and those that are breastfeeding. You can access a search tool on the EPA website that will help you to find the right product that’s right for your needs.
Before using any repellant, first read the instructions carefully and use only as directed. If you are using repellant with sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first, then the repellant afterward. Do not apply repellant to the skin under your clothing.
Insect repellant should not be applied to a child’s mouth, eyes, hands or skin that is cut or irritated. To apply repellant to a child’s face, the adult should spray some onto their hands before applying. Repellant should not be used for infants below two months old. Products containing PMD or OLE should not be used on children below three years old.
Natural insect repellants should be used with caution, since these are not required to be registered with the EPA. Thus, their effectiveness is not known.
If you live in areas where there is a high risk for mosquito bites, you should wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. These include long pants and long-sleeved shirts and blouses. Baby carriers and strollers should be covered with mosquito netting to protect infants and babies.
For further protection, spray your clothes with permethrin. Permethin is a synthetic form of an insecticide that has been used since the 1970s as a clothing treatment to prevent bites from mosquitos and ticks. Each treatment lasts from three to four weeks and will continue to protect you even after multiple washings. Permethin should not be used directly on the skin.
You should also take steps to prevent the spread of mosquitos outside and inside your home. Use the following measures:
- Place screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitos out. Check screens periodically for damage, and repair or replace those with holes.
- Once a week, empty, cover or throw out items that contain water, such as pails, tires, planters, pools and trash cans since mosquitos lay their eggs near water.
- Prevent Mosquito Bites, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/features/stopmosquitoes/index.html
- Tick and Mosquito-Borne Diseases More Than Triple, Since 2004, in the US, 2 May 2018, CNN https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/01/health/ticks-mosquito-borne-diseases-cdc-study/index.html
- Most Common Illnesses You Get From Mosquito Bites, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/illnesses-mosquito-bites
- Mosquito-Borne Diseases, American Mosquito Control Association, https://www.mosquito.org/page/diseases
- Mosquitos Carrying Deadly Diseases Could Invade 75% of America, US Government Warns, Independent, 21 September 2017, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/mosquitos-deadly-diseases-us-government-warning-invade-america-zika-dengue-yellow-fever-chikungunya-a7959586.html