“I’m not allergic to mosquitoes, Mom, I’m allergic to their spit”
Mosquito bite allergies. The only thing worse than having them is having a family member with mosquito bite allergies, and seeing what they go through whenever they get a bite.
A bite on the face? The eyes swell shut. A bite on the elbow? Let’s see you try and bend that arm in an hour. By the way, it has been shown that mosquitoes do get attracted to some people more than others; it’s not your imagination.
I went through a couple years with family members coping with these allergies in Western Canada, where summer is synonymous with mosquitoes, and where we like to camp.
There are all kinds of things you can do to deter mosquito bites – I’ll talk about them in another article, but regardless, there are always bites. So the question for me was, what do you do after the bite, if there is an allergic reaction?
I went to every source you can imagine: outdoor stores, drugstores, health food stores (by the way, don’t waste your money on an Aspivenin® for mosquito bites), age old remedies… nothing worked. So antihistamines it was (incredibly ineffective by the way, for the swelling from the bites).
Occasionally a simple product comes along that has a beauty in its simplicity, and for me, this is one of them… You could say it’s a product endorsement (which by the way, I make no money from); however, sometimes the tip that we find works is a product. So be it.
What is it you ask?
First, because I’m a science geek and I believe that understanding leads to better choices, I want to explain a bit about mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes belong to the order Diptera, True Flies. There are over 3000 species, with 176 species in the United States. They vary in their habitat, behaviour, and preferred sources of food (apparently in Canada, west of the Rockies, their preferred source of food is my family).
What do they eat for nutrition? Sugar (bet you said blood!), usually from plant nectar. The females also need blood for protein for egg development, so it’s just the females that take blood. How do they bite us? They have a long, serrated proboscis that pierces the skin, and they inject saliva which contains an anti-coagulant, preventing the blood from clotting, and a local anaesthetic. The swelling comes from our body’s reaction to the bite; it produces histamines in reaction to a slight allergic response.
So it’s the saliva causing the reaction. Hmm… As it turns out, many insects have venom (or saliva in the case of the mosquito) that is sensitive to heat. Apparently, the application of heat denatures the protein in the saliva, which then reduces the body’s histamine response. Pursuing this line of research, I found out about a product called a Therapik®, which is a portable little hand-held heat applicator. It seemed like a gimmick at first – get a bite, press the Therapik® to it for 30 seconds, no allergic reaction. I purchased one because hey, there is the science of the heat application behind it.
I am now the biggest fan ever. We own 3. There have been no antihistamines taken for mosquito bites in our household in 5 years. Honestly, I don’t know why this does not get more attention. We take it camping with us (with spare batteries – it takes a 9 volt).
A couple comments based on our experience. Keep a fresh battery in it. Old batteries result in lower heat emission, which is not as effective. Judge by when the heat does not seem as high; don’t wait for it to go dead. Also, for our use, we found we had to press it on the bite for a little longer than their recommended time.
The Therapik® company claims that the Therapik® is also effective on other insect bites, neutralizing venom and reducing swelling. We did not test this. All we tested was mosquito bite allergies. And for that, it was the best tip we can give you.
Disclaimer: TipBusters makes no money from the sale of any Therapik® products. This is purely a tip that we found to be highly effective. In addition, tips from TipBusters are the opinion of the authors, and are not guaranteed to work for everyone.