Skeeter Syndrome, also known as ‘mosquito bite allergy’, is a rare allergic reaction that occurs when a mosquito bites a person but while most people experience minor itching, redness and swelling at the mosquito bite site, individuals with Skeeter Syndrome have an exaggerated immune response. This medical issue is believed to be an allergic reaction to proteins present in mosquito saliva.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Nikhil Kulkarni, Consultant-Internal Medicine at SL Raheja Hospital in Mahim, explained, “When a mosquito bites a person to suck their blood, it punctures their skin with its proboscis, a needle-like mouthpart. When this occurs, the mosquito injects saliva into the human skin containing proteins. This only causes a minor immune response in most people; however, in susceptible individuals, the immune system recognises these proteins as foreign substances & triggers an allergic reaction. Although Skeeter Syndrome is rare, it is a severe medical issue as it can cause serious symptoms, which can be fatal if not addressed on time. Recognising the signs and reducing the risk of mosquito bites is vital to reduce its severity.”
What are the symptoms of Skeeter Syndrome?
According to Dr Nikhil Kulkarni, this condition often affects children, older adults and people with impaired or undeveloped immunity levels and some common symptoms associated with Skeeter Syndrome can include the following –
- Intense itching: The affected area may itch intensely, causing discomfort and distress.
- Swelling: The bite site can become significantly swollen, extending beyond the immediate area of the bite.
- Redness: The skin around the mosquito bite may become red and inflamed.
- Pain: Some individuals may experience pain or tenderness at the site of the bite.
- Blistering: In severe cases, blisters or large welts may develop.
In rare instances, individuals with Skeeter Syndrome may experience systemic symptoms such as fever, headache, and fatigue.
Who is at risk for contracting Skeeter Syndrome?
Dr Nikhil Kulkarni answered, “Although the exact cause of this condition is unknown, specific categories of people, including outdoor workers (as they have an increased risk of mosquito bites), immunocompromised individuals (babies, young children, and older adults), and people who are travelling to an area that has a lot of mosquitoes are at a higher risk. Additionally, Skeeter’s condition can increase the risk of anaphylaxis in pregnant women, which can be life-threatening. It can also lead to Hypotension (low blood pressure) and Hypoxemia (low blood oxygen) in pregnant women, who will need immediate medical attention as these conditions can harm both the mother and the unborn child.”
Talking about how Skeeter Syndrome is treated, Dr Nikhil Kulkarni revealed that the main goal for treating a patient with Skeeter Syndrome typically involves managing the symptoms and preventing the severity of the allergic reactions where some treatment options include:
- Simple home remedies may include using ice at the mosquito bite site to reduce inflammation, soothe the sensations of pain & itchiness, and reduce redness. Keeping that part elevated is also a good idea if there is significant swelling.
- Another popular home remedy is applying a mixture of cooked oatmeal to the area. Applying oats directly to the site or taking an oatmeal bath can reduce itching and swelling as it has anti-inflammatory & antioxidant properties.
- Over-the-counter antihistamines can help alleviate itching and reduce swelling. While topical corticosteroid creams or ointments are recommended to reduce inflammation, oral corticosteroids may also be prescribed in severe cases.
- Although OTC remedies can manage most Skeeter Syndrome symptoms, more severe cases may require medical treatment like immunotherapy and topical steroids.
Suggesting how to prevent Skeeter Syndrome and when to visit a doctor, Dr Nikhil Kulkarni said, “It’s impossible to prevent Skeeter Syndrome as a person cannot control how the immune system reacts to specific proteins. The best way to avoid a reaction is to reduce the risk of mosquito bites, especially if the person has already suffered an episode of Skeeter Syndrome before. Also, creating a treatment plan with a doctor is ideal to prevent this condition from hampering the quality of life.”
He concluded, “Seeking medical help is extremely important if someone with Skeeter Syndrome develops anaphylaxis after getting a mosquito bite. Additionally, if a mosquito bite results in severe swelling or pain (especially those that persist after using home remedies), signs of a skin infection, bruising or blisters, high fever and difficulty breathing, head to a doctor immediately.”