Aug. 18th, 2009

terriko: (Default)
This summer has been unusually damp, and the mosquito population has bloomed as a result. I haven't worn mosquito repellent much since I was a teenager, preferring instead to rely on the "someone else will be tastier" defense, which has worked for years, but apparently is less effective when there are this many mosquitoes around.

For the first time in ages, I've got itchy mosquito bites. And as I was mastering the self-control necessary to keep from scratching, I started to wonder why I was doing this. So I turned to a friend and asked, "Why aren't you supposed to scratch mosquito bites?"

He replied, "Oh, because it makes them itch longer."

I looked at him. "But why does it make them itch longer?" And then, perhaps realising that I sounded like a 5 year old, i went on, "I mean, if they're injecting you with some itchy anti-coagulant, wouldn't it be absorbed by your body at the same rate regardless of how much you scratch?"

"I don't know. I know it does make them itch longer, because I've done it, but I never thought about why," he answered. "Darn, now it's going to bother me."

We guessed that one reason to avoid scratching is to avoid scars, but that didn't explain the fact that mosquito bites itch longer if you scratch them.

So I've done a bit of web research and verified it with friends and relatives with biology backgrounds (because I don't trust what I read on the internet), so here's the answer:

1. Scratching can produce scars
2. Scratching really does make mosquito bites itch longer!

Turns out that the anti-coagulant that mosquitoes inject (to keep your blood nice and thin and easy to suck) isn't itchy in and of itself -- it's actually that most of us are allergic to it. Your body produces histamines, which cause the itching. Unfortunately, scratching the mosquito bite also produces histamines, and more histamines means more itch.

While I was looking it up, I also found some suggested ways to make things less itchy. These ranged from baking soda paste to the (now obvious) anti-histamine drugs (same as you take for hayfever). But what's the number one way to deal with the itch? Distraction!

So... I recommend video games to treat mosquito bites. Now you know. ;)


terriko: (Default)

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