What Is Skeeter Syndrome? What Parents Should Know About This Allergy

As divided as the world may seem right now, one thing everyone can collectively agree on is that mosquitoes are the worst. They’re tiny, hard to detect, and if they bite your skin, you’ll be scratching the area for days (or, at least, attempting not to scratch it). Yet, as pesky as they are, a few days of itching might not be your only problem with these tiny terrors: You or your kids could develop a mosquito bite allergy known as “skeeter syndrome,” which could quickly turn the warm weather months into a living nightmare.

Despite its fictional-sounding name, this medical condition could not be more real and is capable of affecting children and adults alike.

What is skeeter syndrome?

When a mosquito bites you, your body registers the bug’s saliva as an allergen, prompting your body to release histamine to the impacted area. As a result, the affected area swells and becomes very itchy. Skeeter syndrome is when your body has a much more severe reaction to a mosquito bite, making the experience even more unpleasant and uncomfortable.

The bottom line? Skeeter syndrome is no fun and definitely something everyone would rather avoid. However, if you’re worried that you or your kids may have this particular allergy, here’s what you need to know.

How do you identify skeeter syndrome vs. normal bites?

One of the biggest concerns you may have is knowing how to discern skeeter syndrome from a regular old mosquito bite. Fortunately, the symptoms are pretty obvious within the first few hours of the bite, making it easy to know that your little one is having a much bigger reaction than is normal.

Some tell-tale signs of skeeter syndrome include:

  • Swelling, redness, itchiness, heat, or even pain, in some cases
  • Possible puffy face or eyes that swell shut
  • In severe cases, difficulty breathing, running a fever, or experiencing vomiting, bruising, or blistering around the area

In other words, it’d be like if the regular symptoms of a mosquito bite times 100. And while there is a skin test that doctors can run to confirm the diagnosis, New York City allergist and immunologist Dr. Purvi Parikh says that sometimes just looking at the patient can be enough.

“If someone comes in and their entire arm is swollen and red from a mosquito bite, it can be pretty obvious,” Parikh stated in an interview with Health in August 2020. Parikh also noted that while these side effects may sound scary, skeeter syndrome doesn’t carry with it as high of a risk as other allergies out there.

“The good news is it’s not as dangerous as allergies to bees and wasps,” she explained. “Those insect allergies can be deadly, and people need to carry EpiPens with them in case they go into anaphylaxis. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any cases of skeeter syndrome that are that severe.”

How is skeeter syndrome treated in children?

Like most things involving your child, it’s best to discuss the situation with your pediatrician before taking matters into your own hands.

Depending on your child’s age, you could use an oral antihistamine like Benadryl to relieve some of the swelling and itching. The same could be said for an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. Applying ice or a cold compress to the affected area could also help reduce the swelling. If your child’s case is severe, you could potentially look into having them get an allergy shot.

But again, you should always ask your pediatrician for guidance before trying home remedies.

The best course of action, although easier said than done, is to simply try to prevent your child from getting bitten by a mosquito in the first place. “If you know you’re predisposed to this, it’s important to carry bug spray with you or wear clothing that covers your skin when you know you’re going to be in a mosquito-infested area,” Parikh explained. “It’s easier to avoid bites in the first place with careful planning and to carry medications with you that can help provide some relief.”

It also wouldn’t hurt to research as much information as you can about mosquitos to help avoid any future encounters. For example, those little guys love to hang out around standing water, such as lakes or ponds, particularly during hot weather seasons.

How long does it take for skeeter syndrome to go away?

The good news is that if you or your kiddo do end up having an unfortunate run-in with mosquitos, skeeter syndrome doesn’t last forever. Depending on the severity of your allergy, you could be completely healed in a few days. For others, it might take up to a week or so to recover fully.

Sure, it’s always frustrating to have yet another thing to worry about regarding your kids. But now that you know what to do and look for, you can hopefully put your mind at ease and still enjoy some quality time outside with your little ones.

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