The surprising danger of your mosquito bite
It's summer -- and that means the sun is brighter... the days are longer... and the bugs are, well, buggier.
It seems like the bugs come back every year fiercer than the last!
But it turns out that itchy, inflamed mosquito bite isn't just a nuisance -- because the latest research shows that the swelling and itching also can help a virus like Zika or West Nile infect and spread through your body more quickly.
A recent study on mice published in the journal Immunity examined the bites from the type of mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue fever, and Chikungunya.
One group of mice was "bitten" by a mosquito, while another was "injected" with live viruses.
The researchers found that the mosquitoes' saliva triggers white blood cells to rush to the bite site, which causes the swelling. But instead of fighting infection, these immune cells can actually get infected -- and then pass the virus along to other cells, spreading the infection throughout the body.
The mice that were simply "injected" with the virus -- without the contact with the mosquito saliva -- did not experience the same inflammatory immune response, and subsequent massive replication.
And when they inhibited the inflammatory response -- in short, making the itching and swelling go away -- it not only lessened the severity of the infection, but it also lowered the risk of death, with the survival rate skyrocketing from 10 percent to 50 percent.
And sure, those were mice -- but these infections can be fatal to humans, too, The American Mosquito Control Association estimates that more than one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne illnesses each year.
If you do get bitten by a mosquito, resist the urge to scratch it -- because any additional inflammation at the site of the bite will just help the infection spread even more.
Your best bet? Don't get bitten in the first place.
First, get rid of any standing water that attracts mosquitoes. You don't want to invite the enemy in.
Use screens at home on your windows and on your porch to keep the little blood-suckers out.
If staying in isn't an option, use a bug zapper and natural and safe mosquito deterrents like essential oils. Try citronella (extracted from the leaves and stems of lemongrass), peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, cedar, or rose geranium oils... or a combination of all of the above.