Skeeter Syndrome (Mosquito Bite Allergies)

Far from the biggest bite I’ve had, just the most recent from a couple days ago when I went out into the field for my work. No, that isn’t a third ankle!

I see a couple posts the beginning of every summer, typically from moms at mom-based sites which I don’t want to register at talking about Skeeter Syndrome or more simply mosquito bite allergies. Funny name, not so funny results. Well, since I was a kid I’ve had to deal with Skeeter Syndrome. I’ve had mosquito bites swell up to the size of soft balls, take up a whole section of my arm and even my whole hand so I can’t close my fingers. Sometimes they’re simply itchy, but can become painful and/or can even ooze and be infected. People laugh at how ridiculous mosquito bite allergies are, but they stop laughing when they see how serious the reaction is. Let’s get one thing straight, not all bites cause a reaction. You can get 10 bites and only 2 react.

The funny thing is the mosquitoes seem to be more attracted to people who have Skeeter Syndrome. There’s obviously no science to back this statement up, but whenever I’m with people who don’t have allergic reactions to mosquitoes, maybe 4 other people and I, each person may get 2-3 mosquito bites whereas I may get 10. It seems too much of a coincidence for that to happen every time.

The absolute worst thing possible for a bite is to scratch it. Everything will come back to this. Not scratching won’t help prevent a reaction, a reaction seems to be independent to any reasoning I’ve tried to come up with, but it will stop the bite from growing to an unmanageable size and become infected. Scratching includes rubbing it against something, running it under water or any other type of material, touching it at all. If you’re dealing with a child who can’t stop itching, I really wish I could help you in that department. Whatever you did for chickenpocks?

Is there a treatment?
When I was a kid, my mom would try to put different types of lotions (ozonal, polysporin, home remedies) and bandages onto the bite, none of which turned out good. My bites used to grow to enormous sizes because of this. Any type of treatment which deals directly with the bite only irritates it more and makes it grow bigger, this with the exception of after bite. After bite doesn’t really help the bite per se, but it will temporarily ease the itchiness which stops the scratching. It’s addictive though I’ll warn you right now. Obviously if the bite becomes an open sore, then you have no choice but to bandage it up, but if it has become an open sore, the bite has been scratched despite what your child has said. Bites don’t open up on their own.

Best solution I’ve found is don’t touch it at all. I’ve tried anti-histamines and ibuprofen, neither seem to have any real effect. Cortisone can somewhat deal with the swelling of the bites. After bite helps with the itchiness, so that you stop scratching it or wanting to. Some people have suggested Sulfameth/Trimethoprim which is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections. I’m not sure if it’s the best idea to treat not as serious bites with something like that because the bite is an immune reaction to polypeptides in the mosquito saliva, especially with smaller children.

How long does it take for the mosquito bites to go away?
The good news is 1-3 days after the bite it should stop swelling and a couple days after that it should bite should subside and there should only be a little red dot left. Despite the fact that it’s mosquito bite extreme, it’s still just a mosquito bite. If the bite lasts more than a week, you may want to go to a doctor, especially if it’s an open sore which seems to be getting infected or you’re dealing with a child that has the bite. In my experience, I’ve never gone to the doctor for mosquito bites.

Should I/my child avoid mosquitoes or areas which may have them?
No. Mosquitoes are everywhere and I think keeping your child inside constantly would be more detrimental than having some mosquito bites react. You can prevent mosquito bites by covering up, wearing long sleeved shirts and pants. The worst bites are those on joints, just because you move and that technically irritates the bite. This includes elbows, wrists, hands, ankles, and waist. You may find that bites in these areas grow the largest. So wear clothing over these areas to avoid being bitten there. Also use bug repellent.

Do you ever grow out of Skeeter Syndrome, does it eventually go away or become less prevalent?
I’m 23 now and I still get reactions from bites. I think because I’m larger than when I was 6, the bites seem smaller but for all I know they could be the same size but proportionally take up less space. I can’t say if it becomes less prevalent or not due to this in terms of age. Lately I’ve been finding myself in the forest a lot more, where there’s an abundance of mosquitoes and black flies. At first after avoiding being bitten for a long time, my bites reacted quite badly in the early season in June. My whole hand being taken by the bite twice. Towards the end of the season in August, my bites seemed to lessen to the point where it was just a normal mosquito bite. None of them would react. I can’t explain why, it could be because my body had so many bites that it stopped reacting or the bugs are just less potent at the end of the summer season. Seems going out in the end of the summer is smarter than the beginning. Update (2013) – My bites are still not reacting as severely as before. Hopefully this means an end to my mosquito bite allergy?

You may want to check out this blog for more information.

29 thoughts on “Skeeter Syndrome (Mosquito Bite Allergies)

  1. Hello Jon,

    At 63 years I am developing Skeeter Syndrome. Never really had it before, but the last couple bites (one on an ear and the other on my cheek next to an eye) swelled to extreme proportions and were very painful.

    I’ve read that several folks have had good luck with cetirizine hydrochlorine (generic Zyrtec) and large doses of B vitamins. Specifically B1 thiamine. I’m sure that just as diet is a personal thing these treatments are as well. Your milage may vary.

    Thanks for posting your experiences. Good luck in the future. Best regards.


  2. Hi Bill,

    I actually heard about the vitamin B1 patches, but more for mosquito repellent than working on the mosquito bite itself. I will have to check these out, thanks a lot for the tip!

  3. Hi there,

    Thank you for this post! I’ve just moved to New Zealand from South Africa, and, as a child I’d sort of “react more” to mosquito bites than my friends, but never over-the-top kind of reaction, just sort of more swollen than is normal. This seemed to go away over the years.

    Now I’ve been in New Zealand for a year, been bitten once or twice over summer – bites seemed to last longer than usual, but nothing dramatic. Now, I’ve been bitten 3 times over a period of 3 months on the same foot, each time causing an insane reaction. The latest the most terrifying as it turned into a huge purple rash around the bite area. Only after researching and finding your site (and like you said “mom” sites) have I discovered that there’s actually a name for this. I’ve also read that it’s likely my reaction is almost a “learned” allergy to new mosquitoes I’ve previously not been exposed to.

    A picture speaks a thousand words and so this will explain better what I’ve been through (though I guess you know full well what this is like…)

    This is the latest one: – it went through a very swollen, red & angry stage before the rash formed. It’s just now starting to fade – 6 days in.

    These are the ones before: – this one ended up with me on an antibiotic IV, diagnosed with “cellulitis” – I wish more doctors knew about this syndrome! This one was by far the most painful, with the worst swelling of all. It had only just begun to heal properly when I was bitten again on the same foot. It got so bad that it felt as though my blood was on absolute fire. My best recommendation for dealing with this is a strong antihistamine & keeping the affected area raised.

    I now have begun to spray a tropical strength 40% DEET repellent to protect myself. I am terrified of this happening to me again!

    Thought I’d just share my story with you as you so generously did on your blog – thank you!

  4. Hi there
    Hey Danielle and the rest. Hope your’e mosquito bites are under controle. I’ve recently moved from South Africa to Saudi and has been bitten by mosquitos here. I have been bitten by mosquitos back home but never had the reaction I am having now. It’s such a relief that I’m not the only one with weird swellings and watery pimple rashes. I must admit, going threw it is scary and I don’t know if I will get used to this. I guesse the best is to avoid being bitten wich I was doing, until I went for a swim and unfortunately the anti-repelant is not waterproof. Do any of you perhaps know if there are any anti-repelant on the market that’s waterproof.

    Thanks and keep those bites under controle 😉

  5. @Danielle
    The worst are the ones on active areas like that; feet, hands, elbows, collar, waist, etc. Even wearing socks doesn’t stop them from bitting through, they actually bit through my jeans before.

    There are some DEET water-repellents I’ve seen before, unfrotunately I don’t know the brands. DEET does the best job keep in mind it’s kind of toxic, so not suggestable for kids who can’t keep their hands away from their eyes and mouths.

    This might sound terrible, but I always have really serious reactions at the beginning of the season or after not having been bitten for a long time, but after a lot of mosquito bites my reaciton is much milder, almost comparable to everyone else’s bites. Sounds painful but if you want to enjoy nature (haha) or you work in the outdoors, it might be the case for you as well?

  6. Jon, thank you for your post. My son has had these reactions to mosquito bitessince he was a baby (he is now 7) and the puzzling part for me was that sometimes he reacted (whole leg/arm swelled up) and other times he didn’t. You have written clearly and explained things well. I just wanted to say thanks. I got more out of your site than at least 3 that I tried B4 it.

  7. Hi Jon and all. I have a three year old son who has skeeter syndrome. I panic very much last night seeing his leg swell so much. It swells till his ankle so well, it is horrible!!!! Your post made me calm down and relax because I now understand it better. Thank you very much!

  8. Thank you so much for the information! Some of my mosquito bites are not bad but others are very severe! My mom doesent believe that i have it because not all of my bites react like that… But thank you so much!

  9. I too have Skeeter Syndrome. It is very frustrating. Day 2-4 is really bad. Sometimes I get large blisters that fill up with fluid, along with redness and swelling. I would love to have just a normal reaction one day. I also have similar reactions to red ants and bees.

  10. I have skeeter syndrome really bad and I found that taking a garlic pill everyday all year I get bit less then I uses to but if I get but I found that putting rubbing alcohol on it helps but the most effective itch relief I found was an afterbite with ammonia in it helps a great deal with the itching

  11. I get Skeeter Syndrome – badly – and I hate mosquitos. Moving on, I actually have found a “home remedy that reduces the frequency with which I develop the full-blown syndrome:

    1. Treat with alchohol swab IMMEDIATELY – MAYBE it sucks out poison?, but more importantly, it helps prevent infection which can come even without scratching (sometimes the mosquitos, themselves deliver it). Only thing worse than Skeeter Syndrome: Pussing, infected Skeeter Syndrome.

    2. Arm and Hammer Baking Soda Toothpaste with Peroxide! When I was little, my doctor used to have me create the baking soda concoction, did a cloth in it, and place on bite. This barely helped, but, theoretically, should have sucked out the bad stuff before it has time to cause the response (my response USUALLY starts many hours later, though not always).

    Anyway…when I was older, I was away on vacation and had nothing with me to make the concoction. I looked through my friends bag for anything that might help and found the toothpaste. I realized AHA! baking soda that will stay where you place it! AND…the peroxide probably doesn’t hurt either.

    Seriously, try it. At worst you’ll smell minty fresh.

    But remember: all of these things really only help if you do them rather quickly. Otherwise there’s nothing for it but Benadryl (blech!).

    Good luck!

  12. @Missy and Devora

    I will have to try using rubbing alcohol and toothpaste in the future, it sounds promising. Luckily this summer, not a single mosquito bite!!!

  13. Hi Jon,
    I wanted to leave a note and thank you for your post. We spent a couple years trying to figure out what was happening to our young son and this post is the first time I’d ever heard of Skeeter Syndrome. You got us pointed in the right direction. I’ve since started a blog about our experience hoping to share what we’ve found to be helpful or not. I shared a link back to this post which I hope is okay… I’m new to blogging and tried to do a trackback but either I don’t know what I’m doing or blogger is not capable of trackbacks. I also wanted to thank you for your perspective regarding not trying to keep my kiddo in doors or in a bubble in effort to protect him. It helps me not feel so guilty if he ends up getting bit after we’ve been out somewhere… Thank You.

  14. @Shannon
    For sure! Weirdly enough your comment got auto-flagged as spam, but I’ve learned to double-check Akismet. Your posts are way more thorough, people should definitely check it out. Unfortunately skeeter syndrome is something you just gotta live with, it can ruin a trip to the cottage if the bite is in the wrong place, but it’s rarely life threatening (at least I’ve never heard of it being life threatening!).

  15. HI! my Four year old son has this! We use Doterr tea tree essential oils (melaluca) and it helps BIG TIME! He never complains about it itching and the swelling is down 75% over night. Keep in mind we apply apply about every 20 minutes.

  16. Benadryl has been very effective for my extra-large mosquito bites, either in pill form for the large-but-not-incapacitating bites or as a shot for when the bites are so large they begin to affect daily living (e.g., can’t bend your arm). The swelling subsides almost immediately and they just become regular large-sized bites.

    and I don’t care if you aren’t supposed to, running water over a mosquito bite is the best last-ditch way to alleviate the itching without scarring. sometimes you just have to scratch, man.

  17. So I just went through google n realized tis is defiantly what ny 2 year old baby has 🙁 but thank god it’s nothing more serious, it’s on his face though n looks horrible!! His eyes n forehead all swelled up!! But I wanted to ask how long should I expect this swelling to last? Thank God he is not itching it surprising enough! Been giving him Benadryl every four hours, but I think his doctor was just as co fused as I was! Thanks for ur help!

  18. Here I was thinking I was clever by running it under water instead of scratching/rubbing. Probably why it looks like its getting worse now. Great post though, definitely more comprehensive than some of the other sites I’ve visited (including Wikipedia).

  19. I’m certainly very happy to read this blog site posts which carries plenty of helpful data, thanks for providing such information.

  20. Hey there.. I’m glad to have found this site.. My two year old was biten 2weeks ago.. Since we were out doors when it happened, we were terrified and rushed him to the ER.. Doc thought it was a bee bite.. The swollen hand eventually went dwn… But then he wokup this morn n his fingers n hand was badly swollen so I spent time researching n found out he has skeeters.. Have read about tea tree oil and just applied it I hope it works. If anyone has other ideas pls let me know…

  21. Thanks so much for the very good info. My 2 year old has such reaction so we are going to have an allergy test in a couple of hours. I wonder if this syndrome is diagnosed via allergy tests? We’ll see

  22. I do have good news, it’s been 3 years since I made this post and I’ve done things like camping and field campaigns where I get absolutely destroyed by mosquitoes. The bites initially reacted badly like it did before, but has since become much less pronounced even after the winters of no mosquito contact. It’s still more than the little red bumps people get, but far from the old gigantic bites that take over an entire area. So with age, the issue seems to become less serious at least for me.

  23. I’m glad to hear this subsides with age. Unfortunately mine seems to have started when i was diagnosed with psoriasis at age 28. The misquito bites itch as bad as one of those outbreaks. Benadyl does not help me with itching it either knocks me out or i get so high i don’t realize I’m scratching. Alcohol and certain foods make the lumps swell and itch even more. Not a problem for children but for adults camping you may have to obstain . And for me the ones on my face feet and legs are the absolute worst. Shoes long pants irritate the bumps so i have to have everything out for everyone to see. The first two days i look disfigured.

  24. Can you still have symptoms 10 days later? the rash and swelling started on one side and has been slowly moving to the other side. thanks

  25. Thanks so much for your post. I’ve going through an after bite swelling as I type and it just sucks.
    I’ll have to try garlic pills, doterr tea tree oils, vitamin b pills and rubbing alcohol now through your followers’ posts.
    I’ve tried benadryl and cortisone 10 creams, but it knocks me out and alleviates the itching for a bit.
    I’ve tried iceing it and elevating it as well. If there’s a natural pill I can take once a day to ward off mosquitoes, I’d take it.

  26. Les recomiendo después del piquete poner aceite de lavanda me dicen que surte un buen efecto y el piquete no crece tanto.

  27. I remember when I was a kid my mom would ask the doctor about these absurdly massive mosquito bites that would cause my entire hand to swell up like a balloon. The doctor always told us that I had cellulitis but as it turns out, Skeeter Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as cellulitis because that is what it looks like and without highly specialized tests to measure antibody titers in the blood, there is no real way to confirm the cause of the unusual swelling. However cellulitis usually takes at least a few days to develop, since it is dependent on a bacterial growth entering the skin as a result of scratching or even through the initial bite (though it is small so that’s unlikely). Skeeter Syndrome develops in mere hours.

    I can definitely say that I think there may be a connection between people with Skeeter Syndrome and mosquitoes being more attracted. I could be standing outside at night, not even anywhere near the grass or any vegetation, for 10-20 min and I’ll get bitten multiple times. I’d be interested to see research on this idea.

    As for the reactions appearing to lessen in severity over time, that has been true of me too. It was much worse when I was younger though I still do get reactions every now and then. These reactions are also dependent on the species of mosquito, since it is a reaction to specific proteins in a mosquito’s saliva–proteins that are used as blood-thinning agents, so that could be the reason not every bite you get reacts in that way.

  28. Omg, I had no idea why my mosquito bites will turn into these giant red and hard spots. Now I know skeeter syndrome is what I think I have. Is this diagnosed, should I go to the doctor, cause everything everyone has said is similar to what I have experienced and what I have now. Right now I have a total 8 bites, assuming they are mosquitos, but 3 of them are extremely red, hard and have tiny blisters. I feel like it’s on fire right now. I showered, passed rubbing alcohol on them all and have band aids on all, I don’t itch/scratch. The bite is so tiny but, the redness and hardness is like the size of the bottom of a soda can. I feel like itchy all over (in my head).

    I will start taking garlic pills and B1/thiamin.

    Should I go to the doctor
    Is there anything to do to prevent this, as it’s so terribly uncomfortable. Bathing and just pat drying my skin. Not cool.

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