“Why are mosquito bites little red bumps?”


I couldn't find a picture of a mosquito that didn't make me totally itchy, so here's a nice picture of a sunrise instead. (Image by KielerSonne via Flickr)

At the risk of inciting another unusually severe snowstorm, I’m going to open this blog post by commenting that aside from a few days in October, we’ve been enjoying a relatively warm fall this year. And as a result, The Four-Year-Old sported mosquito bites well into November.

One day, after I (gently) batted The Four-Year-Old’s hand down from scratching at two bites on her face, she asked, “Mommyo, why are mosquito bites little red bumps?”

According to How Stuff Works, that little red bump is how you know your immune system is on the case.

When a female mosquito has had her fill of you* (approximately 5 microliters of blood per serving), she departs, leaving behind trace amounts of saliva under your skin. The proteins in that saliva are the reason mosquito bites are so itchy.

Your body’s immune system immediately sets to work removing those proteins. As it does, the area swells, making that little red bump. The bump will go away in a few days, but the itch remains until every last bit of saliva protein is destroyed.

You can help your immune system along by washing mosquito bites with mild soap and water, and by doing your best to not scratch the bites to reduce the risk of infection. (Good luck with that. If our experience at Caterpickles Central is any guide, this is nearly impossible, even with the help of calamine lotion.)

*Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite? The males drink plant nectar.

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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2 Responses to “Why are mosquito bites little red bumps?”

  1. Pingback: Mosquito Swatter | dmohankumar.com

  2. Pingback: Robins, ticks, and cherry blossoms? Already? | CATERPICKLES

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