Skeeter Syndrome

By Peter Galvin, MD

Ever heard of Skeeter Syndrome? Don’t feel bad, neither did I. But when I came across a medical journal article about it, I thought it’s perfect for Rockaway as some parts of our peninsula have lots of mosquitos. Although relatively rare, Skeeter Syndrome can affect anyone. It’s more common in children, older adults, and others who have impaired or underdeveloped immune systems.

About 8 to 10 hours after being bitten, someone with Skeeter Syndrome will develop fever and marked swelling at the site of the bite. There may also be redness and warmth at the site, along with pain, itching and blisters. When a mosquito bites you, it uses its long mouthpart called a proboscis (seriously) to suck your blood and then inject its saliva. The saliva contains proteins called polypeptides. Skeeter Syndrome is an allergic reaction to the saliva. The chemical makeup of the saliva differs among various types of mosquitos, and mosquito types differ depending upon where you are. So, it is possible that you may be allergic to Florida mosquito bites, but not New York ones.

Treatment is usually oral antihistamines, topical hydrocortisone cream, and acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever. More severe cases may require oral corticosteroids (i.e., Prednisone). Recovery usually takes 3 to 10 days. Prevention includes the following:

  • Eliminate any standing water.
  • Avoid areas infested with mosquitos.
  • Use an EPA-approved bug spray (will usually contain DEET).
  • Wear long sleeves and pants. Remember that mosquitos can bite through thin clothing.
  • Use screens for doors and windows.
  • Stay indoors when mosquitos are most active (dusk and dawn).
  • Treat your clothing, nets, and tents with mosquito repellants.
  • If sleeping outdoors, cover your sleeping area with protective nets.

Finally, if you have had severe allergic reactions before, you should carry an epinephrine injector (e.g., Epi-Pen) at all times.

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