Balmy summer evenings could be so wonderful, rounding off the perfect day with a barbecue with your family out in nature and tumbling into bed happy and well-fed – if it weren’t for those pesky bugs incessantly buzzing around you at this time of year. Often you think you’ve done enough to protect yourself from the annoying bloodsuckers, only to wake up to reality the next morning with a slightly swollen spot that starts to itch badly. Wonder why you didn’t notice the bite in the first place? The reason is quite simple: the saliva mosquitoes release under your skin when they bite has an analgesic, pain-killing effect.
You’ve been bitten. What next?
Don’t worry: as a rule mosquito bites are harmless in our latitudes. After a few days the itching and swelling go away by themselves. But to be on the safe side, people with allergies who find the bite swelling up very seriously or spreading should consult a doctor. You should also seek a doctor’s advice if you have additional symptoms such as problems with your circulation or breathing.
The rule of thumb is not to scratch! Scratching eases the itching for a short time, but it often leaves an open wound or even unsightly scarring. If you scratch open a bite it can also let bacteria into the skin, which in the worst case can necessitate antibiotics. If the itching becomes unbearable the following can help ease it:
- Gels and lotions (for example with aloe vera) from a pharmacy or drugstore.
- Cold or heat treatment: either ice cubes wrapped in a cloth or a hot spoon (for example from a hot drink) placed on the bite.
“It’s fine to resort to an allergy drug if there’s serious itching or swelling and reddening, especially with kids. Either locally as a cooling gel, or if that doesn’t give enough relief, as drops taken internally,” recommends paediatrician and santé24 medical director Dr Silke Schmitt Oggier.
What can you do to avoid being bitten?
There’s no sure-fire protection against mosquito bites. But there are ways of keeping the pesky insects at bay:
- Mosquito sprays with the active ingredients DEET and icaridin have a repellent effect on mosquitoes, but you do have to keep an eye out for side-effects. You shouldn’t use mosquito repellent for babies under one year old, and you should only apply it sparingly for the under-threes.
- Long, light-coloured clothes made of airy fabric such as linen keep mosquitoes at bay.
- Avoid sweaty odours: mosquitoes are attracted by perspiration and body heat.
- Mosquitoes prefer the warmth, so they steer clear of cool rooms. You can use the air conditioning if you have it.
- The nutrient-rich water in plantpot holders is the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, so make sure to regularly empty it out.
- Cultivate plants such as tomatoes, catmint and scented-leaf pelargoniums.
- Special screens, meshes and nets placed in door and window frames can also keep mosquitoes out of your home.
- If your doors and windows don’t have insect screens, don’t leave them open when the lights are on inside.
Care when travelling abroad
In many countries, mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting dangerous diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. This particularly applies to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, regions of the Pacific, and parts of Central and South America. Before you travel, make sure to find out about the risks and take any necessary precautions.