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Have you ever had an insect bite, but you didn’t know what insect bit you? In the majority of cases, insect bites are irritating, rather than harmful. However, some people can have severe allergic reactions to certain insect bites. Also, some species of insects carry deadly diseases that can be transferred to humans via the insect’s bite.
To eliminate biting pests from your home and to seek the appropriate treatment for bites, you’ll first need to identify the culprit.
When it comes to mosquito bites versus flea bites, many people get confused because most insect bites do look very similar. In this informational guide, we’ll compare flea bites and mosquito bites, as well as explaining how to treat them.
Fleas are not fussy where they get a meal, as long as it consists of mammalian blood.
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The most common source of fleas and flea bites in a home situation is your pets. However, before you blame Fido or Kitty, you should know that fleas also feed on wild animals and birds. Therefore, it’s possible that you were bitten by fleas while you were out hiking or hunting in the countryside. These nasty, biting critters are more than capable of jumping from the grass onto your lower legs to help themselves to a tasty snack as you pass by.
You may experience a skin reaction to a flea bite within minutes, and this often causes people to confuse flea bites with mosquito bites.
How to identify a flea bite
Flea bites are extremely itchy, and you may feel a sharp pain at the moment of the bite too. Typically, the bites do disappear pretty quickly, unlike mosquito bites that can hang around for days.
Flea bites appear as tiny red spots with a hole in their center. The bites often appear in clumps of three, typically in the fold of a joint such as the knee, ankle, or elbow. You may also find bites in your armpit, groin, or under your breasts.
The itching and redness occur because of the hemolytic toxins that the flea’s saliva contains.
Are flea bites dangerous?
Also, a severe allergic reaction to flea bites may affect some people, potentially causing anxiety, headaches, fever, and diarrhea. In severe cases, the victim may develop anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening condition that causes breathing difficulties and swelling around the face and throat.
Flea bites also cause pullicosis, a severe allergic skin reaction that causes the following symptoms:
- blistering and reddening of the skin around the bites
- ulcers in the throat and mouth
- swelling of the lymph nodes
If pullicosis is not treated appropriately, the toxins that are responsible can reach the Central Nervous System with potentially fatal consequences.
Flea bite treatment
Flea bites usually disappear within a few hours. You can ease the itchiness the bites cause by applying calamine lotion to the affected area. If symptoms persist for more than a few hours, you should consult your GP for more advice.
What about mosquito bites?
Mosquitoes are members of the fly family. Like fleas, mosquitoes feed on the blood of mammals, although it’s only the females of the species that do the biting. That’s because these girls need blood in their diet to reproduce. Both male and female mosquitoes usually feed on water and plant nectar.
Unlike fleas, mosquitoes don’t use their walking food source as a permanent host, preferring instead to adopt a hit-and-run tactic. Once you’ve been bitten and the mosquito has finished feeding, she will make good her escape, accompanied by that characteristic, high-pitched buzzing sound that has you flapping your hands around like a maniac in an effort to swat the little beast!
Mosquitoes live in bushes and dense vegetation, but they breed in standing water. So, if you have a pond or rain bucket in your garden, watch out! These biting pests also gather around clogged gutters and storm drains.
Are mosquito bites dangerous?
Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that all mammals exhale, as well as to certain chemicals that human perspiration contains.
Female mosquitoes are equipped with long, tubular mouthparts that they use to pierce the skin of their victim. When they bite, mosquitoes inject saliva into your body to prevent the blood from clotting too quickly as they drink. The saliva contains proteins that most people are mildly allergic to. In response to the invasion, your body’s immune system is triggered, flooding the area around the bite with histamines. That’s what causes the tell-tale red bump and the itching that accompanies it.
Mosquito bites typically disappear within a few days. However, if you have a more severe allergic reaction, the swelling around the area may become extensive, causing nearby joints to become swollen and painful.
Like flea bites, mosquito bites can pose a serious threat to your health, depending on the species of mosquito that bit you and where in the world you were located at the time. Diseases that can be carried by these innocent-looking flies include:
- Zika virus
- West Nile virus
- Dengue fever
- Yellow fever
For this reason, mosquitoes are considered to be one of the most dangerous creatures on the planet!
Needless to say, if you’re planning on visiting an area where any of these diseases are prevalent, be sure that your vaccinations are up-to-date before you travel.
What does a mosquito bite look like?
Although it’s unlikely that you’ll feel the mosquito biting you, you’ll undoubtedly notice the aftermath!
A round, puffy bump will form almost immediately after you’ve been bitten. You may see a tiny red dot in the center of the lump. The bump quickly swells and hardens, becoming itchy and tending to weep or bleed if you scratch it. Usually, you’ll have several bites around the same area.
Treating mosquito bites
Try not to scratch the bites! A common complication in kids with mosquito bites is an infection that’s caused when the bites are scratched until they weep or bleed, opening an access route into the body for bacteria.
If the bites don’t calm down within a day or two, or if you begin experiencing other symptoms such as achy joints, headaches, or a fever, contact your doctor right away. These symptoms could indicate a severe reaction or a mosquito-borne disease.
Although there are a few similarities between mosquito and flea bites, there are significant differences too. In a nutshell:
- Fleas feed exclusively on mammalian blood.
- Only female mosquitoes feed on blood as part of the reproductive process. Both sexes feed primarily on plant nectar.
- Fleas live and lay their eggs on their host animal or bird.
- Mosquitoes live in dense vegetation and lay their eggs in or close to stagnant water.
- Both flea and mosquito bites can carry diseases that are communicable to humans.
- Antihistamines can be used to treat mosquito bites effectively, but they don’t work on flea bites.
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