Skeeter syndrome: Treatments and home remedies

What to know about skeeter syndrome

Skeeter syndrome refers to a significant allergic reaction to mosquito bites. Although most people will have some form of reaction to a mosquito bite, it is usually just an annoyance. However, people with skeeter syndrome are very sensitive to these bites and may develop a fever.

The common symptoms of a mosquito bite include a small red bump and itching around the bite.

However, skeeter syndrome causes a person to experience more serious symptoms. The bites tend to swell up to a very large size, and the person may also have a fever. The reaction tends to build up quickly, usually within a few hours.

There are some home remedies that may help treat symptoms of skeeter syndrome. Medical procedures such as immunotherapy may also be an option for some people.

Share on Pinterest Skeeter syndrome is a severe allergic reaction to a mosquito bite.

The best way to treat skeeter syndrome is to avoid bites as much as possible. This includes taking precautions each time a person goes outside, such as:

  • wearing long sleeves and long pants to avoid skin exposure
  • wearing a scarf or other garment to protect the neck
  • carrying bug spray and applying it liberally
  • trying other repellent measures, such as candles or bracelets containing citronella
  • not wearing bright colors, which may attract mosquitos
  • avoiding areas where there is standing water
  • not using strong perfumes

People who have very severe reactions may wish to avoid going outside when mosquitos are most active, from dusk until dawn.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology explain that DEET is an effective repellent, and that products with 6–25% DEET should be able to provide 2–6 hours of protection from mosquitos.

However, some products may cause skin reactions in some people. For this reason, it is always best to test skin products on a small area of skin before applying them to the rest of the body.

There are several treatment options for people with skeeter syndrome. These range from simple home remedies to more involved medical procedures.

Ice and elevation

For a bite that causes a reaction in one small area of the body, start with the simplest form of treatment.

Elevating the area and placing an ice pack on it may help reduce inflammation, soothe the sensations of pain and itchiness, and reduce redness.


Applying a mixture of cooked oatmeal to the area may also help reduce symptoms.

As a study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found, oats have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

This might explain their beneficial effect on the skin.

Applying oats directly to the area or taking an oatmeal bath may help reduce itching and swelling and help a person find comfort.


If a bite does not respond to simple home remedies, some over-the-counter (OTC) medications may help a person feel better much faster.

For instance, OTC antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may help temporarily reduce itching and swelling.

Topical steroids

Some topical corticosteroid creams may also help temporarily soothe the reaction to a mosquito bite. OTC medications such as hydrocortisone (Cortaid) should be enough in most cases.

If a person knows that they have severe reactions to mosquito bites that do not respond well enough to these creams, their doctor may prescribe slightly stronger treatments.


Although the symptoms of skeeter syndrome are manageable for most people using OTC remedies, more serious cases may require medical treatment.

Allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots, is a more permanent solution to severe allergic reactions from bug bites such as those from mosquitos.

Allergy shots work similarly to vaccines. An allergist will inject the person with very small amounts of a particular allergen. By increasing the amount of the allergen in each shot over time, immunotherapy may help the body build its own defenses against the allergy-causing proteins in mosquitos.

However, allergen immunotherapy takes time. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology note that it may take as long as 18 months or more for a person to notice an improvement in their symptoms.

Also, a person may need to continue having allergy shots for 3–5 years after successful treatment.

People with skeeter syndrome are allergic to the proteins in mosquito saliva. Although most people are allergic to these proteins to some degree, people with skeeter syndrome have a more severe reaction than others.

Some people may be more likely to experience skeeter syndrome, such as those who are allergic to stinging insects. People with weaker immune systems, such as young children and older adults, may also have a stronger reaction to mosquito bites.

Normally, the human body builds up immunity to certain allergens over time. Because of this, children may have more severe reactions to mosquito bites than adults, as their bodies have not had time to build this immunity yet.

Allergic reactions from skeeter syndrome come on quickly, causing symptoms of skin irritation to appear within the first few hours. Skin symptoms include:

A person may also occasionally experience a fever.

In children, these symptoms may appear in as little as 20 minutes, as a study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology found. This can be startling, but it is typically not a cause for serious concern unless the child shows signs of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal if a person does not receive immediate medical care.

Symptoms come on quickly, but they typically do not last very long. In general, if an infection does not occur in the area, the bite will heal and the symptoms will go away completely within a few days.

It is important to avoid scratching or dirtying the area as it heals. Severe reactions may be more prone to infection. Infected bites may turn to boils, which take longer to heal and have their own complications.

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Regularly clean any bites gently with warm water and a hypoallergenic soap.

Allergic Reaction to Mosquito Bites

Mosquito bites are an annoying rite of passage during the hot summer months. Mosquitoes can appear anywhere, but they are especially prolific in areas where there is any standing water – this might be as big as a swamp or as small as a bucket forgotten in the yard. Mosquito bites usually lead to itchiness, but some people can have serious allergic reactions to mosquito bites. Known as Skeeter syndrome, the reaction usually happens among small children, toddlers and the elderly.

What Causes Allergic Reaction to Mosquito Bites?

Those who are seriously allergic to mosquito bites are actually allergic to mosquito saliva. The polypeptides in the saliva are used to thin the blood so that mosquitoes can siphon it. It is believed that it is the autoimmune response triggered by the enzymes in mosquito saliva causes the allergic reaction. Sometimes the reaction develops instantly, while at other times it might take up to 48 hours before the reaction begins. Interestingly, because there are several different types of mosquitoes, a person might be allergic to one bite but not another. This helps explain why some people suddenly become allergic to mosquito bites when traveling abroad.

What Are the Symptoms of Allergic Reaction?

Allergic reactions to mosquito bites can present in many different ways. The most common issues are severe swelling and itching. A red lump might appear at the site of the bite, as well as at other areas of the body that are far away from the bite. There might be bruises and blisters popping up around the bite site. Sometimes individuals will have an asthmatic reaction, and might develop infections after excessive scratching. The most frightening aspect is anaphylaxis which could come very suddenly and make it difficult to breathe. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate assistance.

Who Is at Risk for Mosquito Bite Allergy?

Some people are at a much higher risk of allergic reaction to mosquito bites.

  • People who are frequently outdoors, and thus might have more mosquito bites, are considered especially vulnerable.
  • People who have a still-developing immune system, such as small children and toddlers, are also at risk. So do the elderly whose immune systems might be compromised.
  • People who have leukemia, AIDS, lymphoma, and other conditions that inhibit their immune system should take mosquito bites very seriously.

Mosquito bite allergies are diagnosed through a positive skin test that uses a small bit of mosquito whole-body extract. Testing should be limited to those who have a history of severe reactions; small, itchy areas after a bite that go away in a few days are not considered a severe reaction.

How to Treat Mosquito Bite Allergy

Treatment for allergic reactions to mosquito bites usually consists of supportive care in which the symptoms are managed. Oral anti-histamines, as well as oral steroids might be taken to reduce the pain, swelling and itchiness. Some medications, like Cetirizine hydrochloride, can be taken on a daily basis to help keep reactions to a minimum. Bring anti-allergy medications when you go to a mosquito-inhabited area. Any sign of anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention.

How to Prevent Mosquito Bite

Prevention of mosquito bites is an important step to help curb the allergic reaction to mosquito bites. Start by eliminating the areas they like to use to breed, such as all standing water. Mosquitoes might be attracted to gutters, drain pipes, children’s wading pools, birdbaths, water collected in old tires, outdoor flower pots, and even fire pits that retain water after rains.

You can also make sure the screens on your windows and doors are secure, with no rips or tears. Use mosquito netting over cribs or strollers when outside. Remember that mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn, and make a point of being indoors during those times. Recent studies have shown that mosquitoes don’t like moving air, so staying inside under the air conditioning can keep them at bay.

When going outside, use a strong mosquito repellent that contains DEET. Other formulations that are acceptable might include lemon eucalyptus oil or icaridin. Be sure to put the repellent on every time you go outside, always about 20 minutes after you put on sunscreen. Do not use DEET products on children younger than two months, and do not use lemon eucalyptus oil on children under the age of three.

Finally, remember to treat the gear you might use outside as well. This can be done with permethrin, which is designed to be applied to outdoor clothing and gear, but not to skin. When it comes to wearing protective clothing, make sure to wear long sleeves and long pants, socks and closed-toe shoes, very light colors (mosquitoes don’t like them!) and a hat that protects your ears. Better yet, opt for a hat with netting that protects your face. Go even further to prevent an allergic reaction to mosquito bites by using preventative medication, such as a non-drowsy antihistamine, before going outside.

Mosquito Bite Allergy Symptoms, Cause & Treatment

It is very well-known that mosquitoes carry diseases such as malaria and dengue. Many individuals are sensitive to mosquito bite, but some people are allergic to mosquito bites and can have adverse reactions. While male mosquitoes are not harmful because they feed only on water and nectar, the female mosquitoes are the real culprits that are out for the blood. A mosquito bite is not very painful, but it can create physiological responses in human beings. If such a bite lasts for more than 10 to 15 days, it is recommended to see a medical professional and get your allergy treated.

Causes of Mosquito Bite Allergy

The female mosquito insects her proboscis on the exposed area of the victim’s skin to draw the blood. This blood is used by the mosquito to develop new eggs. After a mosquito bite, the skin often becomes itchy and inflamed. This is because, when a mosquito bites, it releases saliva, which contain proteins. These proteins dilate the blood vessels and prevent clotting, which makes it easier for the mosquito to draw the blood. Moreover, these proteins activate the mast cells, cells of the immune system, which release histamine, a compound that causes inflammation and gives rise to symptoms of allergy.

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Symptoms of Mosquito Bite Allergy

As per the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), to produce a reaction, a contact with the mosquito must be for minimum 6 seconds. Severe symptoms include:

  • Bruises
  • Blistering rashes
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Inflammation
  • Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention and causes shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, low blood pressure and rapid pulse

In case of severe allergic reaction, seek medical help quickly.

Diagnosis and Tests of Mosquito Bite Allergy

There is no particular blood test to diagnose and confirm allergy to mosquito bite. Your doctor will diagnose such an allergy by observing large, red areas of itching and swelling, which occur after a mosquito bite on your skin. Tell your doctor if there are mosquitoes in your house or in the area where you live. Inform your doctor about the symptoms and for how long do they last. This will help the doctor understand better about the allergy.

Risk Factors

  • Males are more prone to mosquito bites than females
  • Children are at a higher risk as compared to adults
  • Wearing dark colored clothes will attract the mosquito and increase the risk
  • Being overweight or obese increases your chances
  • Mosquitoes are attracted to heat. Therefore, people living in hot and humid climate or tropical regions are at a greater risk
  • Mosquitoes are attracted to individuals who apply perfumes or shampoos and lotions with a strong fragrance
  • Individuals with blood type O are more susceptible than individuals with blood type A and B.

Treatment of Mosquito Bite Allergy

  • Anti-histamines: These drugs work against histamine and help in relieving symptoms of allergy such as itching, redness and swelling
  • Having bath with cold water without using any soap can also help
  • Use topical anti-itch lotion or mosquito repellent
  • Epinephrine pen: Keep an epinephrine pen with you in case of anaphylaxis
  • A cold compress or ice cubes can be applied on the affected area to reduces itching, redness and swelling
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: These medications help in reducing inflammation associated with mosquito bites
  • Application of a paste made from baking soda and water at the site of mosquito bite helps in reducing redness, swelling and itching

Consult your healthcare provider if the swelling and redness continue to increase.

Allergic Reaction to Mosquito Bites: Treatment for Skeeter syndrome

The Skeeter Syndrome is an allergic reaction to mosquito bites, and is characterized by inflammatory processes and fever. The condition develops because of allergenic polypeptides present in the saliva of the mosquito and hence, is not infectious.

The Skeeter Syndrome progresses over a couple of hours as against cellulitis that tends to characteristically progress over a period of several days.

Symptoms of Allergic Reaction to Mosquito Bites

If you suffer from an allergic reaction to mosquito bites, you have what is called the ‘Skeeter syndrome’. The Skeeter syndrome is quite rare and affects those individuals who have a history of related allergic reactions.

The symptoms of an allergy may manifest immediately or after a period of time. The symptoms seen in association with the Skeeter syndrome are as follows:

  • Swelling around the bite that itches.
  • A red lump develops later, if the person scratches at the site of the bite.

Mosquito Bite

Female Mosquito

From the CDC’s Public Health Image Library (, ID#1863, in the public domain. Photo credit: James Gathany.

Is this your child’s symptom?

  • Bites from a mosquito
  • Cause itchy, red bumps
  • Often they look like a hive
  • West Nile Virus (WNV) questions are also covered

Next Steps


Types of Reactions to Mosquito Bites

  • Red Bumps. In North America, mosquito bites are mainly an annoyance. They cause itchy red skin bumps. Often, the bite looks like hives (either one large one or several small ones).
  • When a mosquito bites, its secretions are injected into the skin. The red bumps are the body’s reaction to this process.
  • Suspect mosquito bites if there are bites on other parts of the body. Most bites occur on exposed parts such as face and arms.
  • Swelling. Bites of the upper face can cause severe swelling around the eye. This can last for several days. With bites, the swelling can be pink as well as large (especially age 1-5 years).
  • Disease. Rarely, the mosquito can carry a serious blood-borne disease. In the US and Canada, this is mainly West Nile Virus (WNV). In Africa and South America, they also carry malaria and yellow fever.
  • Prevention. Insect repellents can prevent mosquito bites. Use DEET (applied to skin) and permethrin (applied to clothing).

Cause of Mosquito Bite Reaction

  • The skin bumps are the body’s reaction to the mosquito’s saliva.
  • While it’s sucking blood, some of its secretions get mixed in.

Mosquito Life Cycle

  • Only female mosquitoes bite. They need a blood meal to produce eggs. The female may bite 20 times before she finds a small blood vessel. She then sips blood for 90 seconds.
  • Males eat flower nectar and plant juices.
  • 170 species of mosquito are in North America.
  • At a far distance, they are attracted by smell (breath odors, sweat and perfumes). They can smell up to 120 feet (36 meters). At a close distance, they are attracted by body heat and movement.

Risk Factors for Increased Mosquito Bites

  • Warmer body temperature
  • Male more than female
  • Children more than adults
  • Breath odors
  • Sweating
  • Perfumed soaps and shampoos

Complications of Insect Bites

  • Impetigo. A local bacterial infection. Gives sores, soft scabs and pus. Caused by scratching or picking at the bites. More common in itchy bites.
  • Cellulitis. The bacterial infection spreads into the skin. Gives redness spreading out from the bite. The red area is painful to the touch.
  • Lymphangitis. The bacterial infection spreads up the lymph channels. Gives a red line that goes up the arm or leg. More serious because the infection can get into the bloodstream. (This is called sepsis.)

Treatment for Mosquito Bites

  1. What You Should Know About Mosquito Bites:
    • In the United States and Canada, mosquito bites rarely carry any disease.
    • They cause itchy red skin bumps.
    • Most of the time, the bumps are less than ½ inch (12 mm) in size. In young children, they can be larger.
    • Some even have a small water blister in the center.
    • A large hive at the bite does not mean your child has an allergy.
    • The redness does not mean the bite is infected.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Steroid Cream for Itching:
    • To reduce the itching, use 1% hydrocortisone cream (such as Cortaid). No prescription is needed. Put it on 3 times a day until the itch is gone. If you don’t have, use a baking soda paste until you can get some.
    • If neither is available, use ice in a wet washcloth for 20 minutes.
    • Also, you can put firm, sharp, direct, steady pressure on the bite. Do this for 10 seconds to reduce the itch. A fingernail, pen cap, or other object can be used.
  3. Allergy Medicine for Itching:
    • If the bite is still itchy, try an allergy medicine (such as Benadryl). No prescription is needed.
    • Sometimes it helps, especially in allergic children.
  4. Try Not to Scratch:
    • Cut the fingernails short.
    • Help your child not to scratch.
    • Reason: Prevent a skin infection at the bite site.
  5. Antibiotic Ointment:
    • If the bite has a scab and looks infected, use an antibiotic ointment. An example is Polysporin.
    • No prescription is needed. Use 3 times per day. (Note: Usually infection caused by scratching bites with dirty fingers).
    • Cover the scab with a bandage (such as Band-Aid). This will help prevent scratching and spread.
    • Wash the sore and use the antibiotic ointment 3 times per day. Do this until healed.
  6. What to Expect:
    • Most mosquito bites itch for 3 or 4 days.
    • Any pinkness or redness lasts 3 or 4 days.
    • The swelling may last 7 days.
    • Bites of the upper face can cause severe swelling around the eye. This does not hurt the vision and is harmless.
    • The swelling is often worse in the morning after lying down all night. It will improve after standing for a few hours.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Bite looks infected (redness gets larger after 48 hours)
    • Bite becomes painful
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

West Nile Virus Questions

  1. West Nile Virus (WNV) — What You Should Know:
    • WNV is a disease carried by mosquitoes. It can be spread to humans through a mosquito bite.
    • About 1% of mosquitoes carry WNV.
    • Of people who get WNV, less than 1% get the serious kind.
    • Here are some facts that should help.
  2. Symptoms of WNV:
    • No symptoms: 80% of WNV infections.
    • Mild symptoms: 20% of infections. Symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches. Some have a skin rash. These symptoms last 3-6 days. They go away without any treatment. This is called WNV fever.
    • Serious symptoms: less than 1% (1 out of 150) of WNV infections. Symptoms are high fever, stiff neck, confusion, coma, seizures, and muscle weakness. The muscle weakness is often just on one side. The cause is infection of the brain (encephalitis) or spinal cord (viral meningitis).
    • Death: 10% of those who need to be in the hospital.
    • Child cases are most often mild. Most serious cases occur in people over age 60.
  3. Diagnosis of WNV:
    • Mild symptom cases do not need to see a doctor. They do not need any special tests.
    • Severe symptom cases (with encephalitis or viral meningitis) need to see a doctor right away. Special tests on the blood and spinal fluid will be done to confirm WNV.
    • Pregnant or nursing women need to see a doctor if they have WNV symptoms.
  4. Treatment of WNV:
    • No special treatment is needed after a mosquito bite.
    • There is no special treatment or anti-viral drug for WNV symptoms.
    • People with serious symptoms often need to be in the hospital. They will be given IV fluids and airway support.
    • There is not yet a vaccine to prevent WNV in humans.
  5. WNV — Spread by Mosquitoes:
    • WNV is spread by the bite of a mosquito. The mosquito gets the virus from biting infected birds.
    • Even in an area where WNV occurs, less than 1% of mosquitoes carry the virus.
    • Spread is mosquito-to-human.
    • Person-to-person spread does not occur. Kissing, touching, or sharing a glass with a person who has WNV is safe.
    • Mothers with mosquito bites can breastfeed (CDC 2003), unless they get symptoms of WNV.
    • It takes 3-14 days after the mosquito bite to get WNV.
    • In United States and Canada, the peak summers for WNV were 2002, 2003 and 2012.

Insect Repellent Questions

  1. Prevention Tips:
    • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat.
    • Avoid being outside when the bugs are most active. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. Limit your child’s outdoor play during these times.
    • Get rid of any standing water. (Reason: It’s where they lay their eggs.)
    • Keep bugs out of your home by fixing any broken screens.
    • Insect repellents containing DEET are very good at preventing mosquito bites. Read the label carefully.
  2. DEET Products — Use on the Skin:
    • DEET is a good mosquito repellent. It also repels ticks and other bugs.
    • The AAP approves DEET use over 2 months old. Use 30% DEET or less. Use 30% DEET if you need 6 hours of protection. Use 10% DEET if you only need protection for 2 hours.
    • Don’t put DEET on the hands if your child sucks their thumb or fingers. (Reason: Prevent swallowing DEET)
    • Warn older children who apply their own DEET to use less. A total of 3 or 4 drops can protect the whole body.
    • Put on exposed areas of skin. Do not use near eyes or mouth. Don’t use on skin that is covered by clothing. Don’t put DEET on sunburns or rashes. (Reason: DEET can be easily absorbed in these areas.)
    • Wash it off with soap and water when your child comes indoors.
    • Caution: DEET can damage clothing made of man-made fibers. It can also damage plastics (eye glasses) and leather. DEET can be used on cotton clothing.
  3. Permethrin Product — Use on Clothing:
    • Products that contain permethrin (such as Duranon) work well to repel mosquitos and ticks.
    • Unlike DEET, these products are put on clothing instead of on the skin.
    • Put it on shirt cuffs, pant cuffs, shoes and hats. Can also put it on mosquito nets and sleeping bags.
    • Do not put permethrin on the skin. (Reason: Sweat changes it so it does not work).
  4. Picaridin Products:
    • Picaridin is a repellent that is equal to 10% DEET.
    • It can safely be put on skin or clothing.

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