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Why do insect bites itch?

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When it comes to summer, a few things come to mind: school break, vacation trips with family, dinner, and of course, bug bites. When the weather is warm, we're not the only ones enjoying the sun. Pests like ticks can make people sick, and stinging insects like wasps can sting people...and they can hurt REALLY! But when you think of bug bites on your arms or legs, you probably think of itchy bites caused by mosquitoes. So, why do insect bites itch? And why do mosquitoes bite people in the first place?

Why do mosquitoes bite people? 

Mosquitoes bite because they need blood to lay eggs. Since female mosquitoes lay eggs, they are the only ones that bite. In fact, our body odor and the heat we generate, as well as the carbon dioxide we exhale when we breathe, can attract mosquitoes.

Why do mosquito bites itch? 

To bite someone, a mosquito pierces the skin with its mouthparts and sucks out blood, as if sucking from a straw. Mosquitoes inject certain proteins into the blood that help them quickly absorb nutritious food. These proteins tell our body's immune system that something is wrong, causing it to release a compound known as histamine. This connection sends a signal to the nerves surrounding the bite site, causing itching. So, it is actually our own immune system that causes mosquito bites to itch! While it may be tempting, scratching the bite can cause it to itch even more.

Mosquito bite prevention

To avoid insect bites and itching, wear long pants and sleeves when outdoors if possible, and have an adult use insect repellent to repel mosquitoes.

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