Mosquito bites in children are more likely to occur than in adults since children tend to be more active outdoors. Several kinds of mosquitoes exist, but only three, Anopheles, Culex, and Aedes, are responsible for human bites and are clinically significant (1).
Female mosquitoes are the only ones that bite since they need blood as a source of iron and protein to nurture their eggs (2). Mosquito bites are generally harmless but can occasionally induce allergic reactions or cause mosquito-borne diseases in children.
Read on to know more about mosquito bites, potential allergic reactions, and preventative strategies for kids.
Symptoms of Mosquito Bites in Children
When a female mosquito punctures the skin to suck blood, it mixes saliva into our bloodstream. The chemicals in the mosquito’s saliva prevent the blood from clotting and cause an immune response that leads to discomfort, including redness, itching, and swelling (3).
According to American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) this contact between the skin and tip of mosquito’s mouth should be for at least six seconds for any reaction to occur (3). Few of the common symptoms of mosquito bite include the following ( 2, 4).
- Red bumps (raised area where mosquito bit): These itchy red bumps may appear hours or days after a mosquito bite and cause bite marks lasting for a few days.
- Itchy or irritated skin
- Swelling: When a bite occurs on the upper face, it may cause swelling around the eyes that may last for a couple of days. Children between the ages of one to five years may experience swelling that is large and pink in colour.
Allergic Reactions and Emergency Symptoms in Children
Allergic reactions from a mosquito bite can vary among children. Usually, people who have become desensitized (less sensitive or insensitive to mosquito bite) may not show any observable reaction (1).
According to AAAAI, young children may not often react at all to the mosquito bites for the same reason (3). Although, tiny red bumps may appear in some people.
- Blistering lesions
- Larger hives (a rash of round, red welts on the skin that itch intensely, sometimes with dangerous swelling, caused by an allergic reaction) around the bite along with fever or joint swelling
- Anaphylaxis: Although rare with mosquito bites, anaphylaxis is a life threatening condition characterized by hives, throat swelling, faintness or wheezing.
In many cases, mosquito bites can cause an infection or a disease. You should seek medical attention if your child presents the following symptoms (2).
- Symptoms of anaphylaxis
- Eye irritation
- Fatigue or tiredness
Risk Factors for Mosquito Bites
- Males are more prone than females
- Warm body temperatures
- Dark colored clothing (especially for the mosquitoes that bite during the daytime)
- Perfumed products including soaps and shampoos
- Breath odors
- Blood type: A study showed that people with blood group O attract more Aedes albopictus mosquitoes than A, B, and AB blood group (5).
- ChikungunyaiXA mosquito-borne viral disease common in Asia and Africa that causes fever and joint pain
- MalariaiXA mosquito-borne disease common in tropical regions and characterized by fever and chills
- DengueiXA mosquito-borne viral disease that causes fever, headache, rash, and joint pain and, if contracted again, may result in severe disease
- Zika virusiXA viral disease caused by an Aedes species mosquito that leads to fever, headache, rash, joint pain, malaise, and conjunctivitis
- West Nile virusiXA virus carried by mosquitoes that can cause a fatal neurological disease in humans
- Yellow feveriXA mosquito-borne disease causing fever, headache, and vomiting in mild cases and heart, kidney, and liver issues in severe cases
- EncephalitisiXAn inflammation of the brain due to an infection, resulting in confusion, hallucinations, convulsions, and numbness
- Skeeter syndrome: Some children may develop Skeeter syndrome following a mosquito bite. It is a rare inflammatory reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. The symptoms can include a large area of swelling, redness, heat, and itching or pain (8).
- Impetigo: It is a contagious bacterial skin infection that most commonly affects children between two and five years (9). It is caused by picking and scratching the itchy skin at the site of the bite. It can result in soft scabs, pus, or sores. According to a National Institute of Health (NIH) survey, impetigo accounts for approximately ten percent of skin issues in the pediatric population.
- Cellulitis: This condition is also a bacterial infection that spreads to the skin. Symptoms can include redness, pain, heat, swelling on the skin along with blisters or bruises (10).
- Lymphangitis: This bacterial infection can spread to the lymph channels. The most common symptom is a red line on the skin that goes up the arm or leg. In some cases, the infection may spread into the bloodstream, causing sepsisiXA condition in which an infection starts a reaction in the body, causing multiple organ failure, difficulty breathing, fever, and confusion in more severe cases.
Treatment for Mosquito Bites In Children
Usually, a local reaction from mosquito bites resolve on their own within 10 days (1). In addition, if symptoms of anaphylaxis appear, seek immediate medical treatment. However, mosquito-borne diseases may require medical attention.
- Ice pack: Elevating the affected area and applying ice packs can help reduce swelling and pain.
- Cleaning the blisters: Cleaning the blisters with soap and water without breaking them will help reduce itching and infection.
- Over-the-counter lotion: Applying an over-the counter lotion to the affected area can also help to reduce symptoms.
- Topical steroids or oral antihistamines: In cases where itching persists, topical steroids, anti-itch creams, and oral antihistaminesiXMedications that help relieve allergic symptoms can be recommended.
Loratadine, an antihistamine has been shown to reduce skin reaction symptoms, especially in children (11). Use of hydrocortisone cream is not recommended in children.
Overuse of anesthetics or antihistamines should be avoided in children as it may cause side effects over a longer period of time.
- Autoinjectable epinephrine: Incase your child has been diagnosed with insect anaphylaxis, doctors can recommend carrying autoinjectable epinephrine.
Epinephrine works by reversing the symptoms of anaphylaxis. For example, a person’s blood pressure plummets during an anaphylactic reaction because the blood vessels relax and dilate – epinephrine causes the blood vessels to constrict, which raises blood pressure.
Home Remedies for Mosquito Bites in Children
You may also try the following home remedies to relieve itching and swelling. However, if your child shows other symptoms such as fever, blisters, rashes, bodyache, or nausea, you should seek immediate medical attention.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal has been used for ages for its anti-itch and anti-inflammatory properties. Certain chemical compounds (avenanthramides) in oats work as an anti-irritant (12). Therefore, a warm oatmeal bath or oatmeal paste may help relieve the symptoms of mosquito bite.
- Vinegar: Dabbing a drop of vinegar on a mosquito bite can help reduce itching. With its natural disinfectant properties, it can work against skin irritation. Using a washcloth soaked in cold water and vinegar solution can also provide more relief.
- Baking soda: A solution of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and water can also ease the symptoms of a mosquito bite.
- Aloe vera: Aloe vera gel has been known to show anti-inflammatory action. Therefore, applying the gel directly to the site of mosquito bite can help relieve the symptoms.
- Basil: A chemical compound, eugenol, in basil has been known to be effective against itchy skin. Basil leaves boiled in water or as paste can, therefore, be used to provide relief from mosquito bite.
- Honey: With its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, honey can be used on the itchy mosquito bite.
- Thyme: Thyme is known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Its leaves can be used against mosquito bite to relieve itching and skin irritation.
Preventing Mosquito Bites in Children
Prevention is better than cure! You may follow these tips to keep your child safe from mosquito bites (13).
1. Getting rid of mosquito breeding areas
- Remove water (standing) in old tires, toys, buckets, rain gutters, plastic covers, flower pots, or any other container.
- Keep bird baths and swimming pools clean.
2. Using recommended pesticides
- For mosquito larvae, use advised methods to control their growth.
- For adult mosquitoes, use recommended insecticides.
3. Using mosquito barriers
- Keep your doors, windows, and open spaces covered or closed with mesh.
- Cover children’s beds with mosquito nets.
4. Avoiding mosquito bites
- Keep your child safe by making them wear clothes that cover normally exposed body parts such as pants, full sleeve clothes, and socks.
- Stay indoors when mosquito-borne diseases are at peak.
- Use an approved mosquito repellent such as DEET (diethyltoluamide). Make sure to read instructions and precautions carefully when using in your child’s room as these repellents may cause eye irritation dry skin, or rash.
When to see a Doctor
Seek immediate medical help if your child experiences following symptoms (4).
- The redness or red streak is spreading along with fever.
- Your child looks sick.
- Pain or redness is spreading 24 hours after the bite.
- Pain and redness has increased 48 hours after the bite.
- Sweeling is getting larger or filled with pus and has no relief from antibiotic ointment.
- Severe itching that hasn’t improved in 24 hours after the use of steroid cream.
- Symptoms of anaphylaxis appear such as faintiness, dizziness, swollen throat, and fever.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long do mosquito bites last in children?
Most mosquito bites may cause itching for three or four days, and the swelling may last up to seven days (16).
2. How often should I apply insect repellent to my child?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, insect repellents such as DEET should only be applied once a day. They should be applied on the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin and not underneath clothing. Ensure you get your children to wash their skin with soap and water to remove any repellent once indoors. Wash their clothing to remove any chemical residues (17).
Mosquito bites are relatively harmless. However, in some cases they may cause allergic reactions. Protecting your child is the best defence. If your child shows symptoms of a mosquito bite along with fever, malaise, increasing pain, puffiness, or redness, make sure to seek medical advice.
Have any useful experience to share on mosquito bites, feel free to share it in the comments below.
Infographic: How To Treat Mosquito Bites In Children At Home?
Mosquito bites are a typical issue for children during the warmer months of the year. Although they usually pose no major health risks, the bites can irritate and make them uncomfortable. While there are many lotions to protect, check out the infographic below for some home remedies.
- Children are more prone to mosquito bites as they spend more time playing outdoors.
- Mosquito bites can induce itching, red bumps, swelling, and even allergic reactions or diseases.
- Factors such as male gender, warm body temperatures, dark colored clothing, and perfumed products make people more susceptible to mosquito bites.
- To treat mosquito bites in children, one can use an ice pack, antihistamines, hydrocortisone cream, and advise them to avoid scratching the bite.
Mosquitoes are disliked worldwide. They are pesky pests that are found all over, especially in damp and warm regions. Watch this informative video that explains exactly why mosquitoes bite us and also pick up a few tips and tricks on how to keep mosquitoes at bay.
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12. Sur, R., Nigam, A., Grote, D., Liebel, F., & Southall, M. D. Avenanthramides, polyphenols from oats, exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-itch activity: Archives of Dermatological Research, 300(10), 569. (2008).
13. Tips to prevent mosquito bites: United States Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.).
14. What parents need to know about insect bites and stings: Children’s Minnesota
15. Mosquitoes are seeing red: Why new findings about their vision could help you hide from these disease vectors: University of Washington
16. Mosquito bite: Children’s Hospital Colorado
17. Choosing an Insect Repellent for Your Child: American Academy of Pediatrics