Thursday, May 24, 2018

Swollen, Firm, Painful Mosquito Bites: Skeeter Syndrome in Children



"Skeeter Syndrome" sounds like some silly, made-up medical term, but it's a very really thing. I hadn't heard of it until my daughter started experiencing extreme swelling, itching, pain, and target lesions from mosquito bites. I did a Google search and found dozens of websites mentioning symptoms that matched her symptoms exactly.

This syndrome is terrible and it has increased my hatred for mosquitoes ten-fold. No one likes to see their child suffer—and when I say that her entire limb will swell as a result of a mosquito bite, I am not exaggerating. Last year, I ended up having to take her to her pediatrician because of bug bites! It sounds crazy—taking your child to the doctor for a mosquito bite—but when you look at these pictures, you'll understand why.

This post is not intended to provide medical advice.


Disclaimer: This post was created for informational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking because of what you're reading here.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by this post is solely at your own risk.

What is Skeeter Syndrome?


Skeeter syndrome can be defined as "a mosquito bite allergy that results in swelling, blistering and discomfort." It is a localized allergic reaction to the allergenic polypeptides in mosquito saliva and can also cause inflammation and fever in some cases.

Our Experience


I was compelled to write this post because yesterday evening, a mosquito somehow crept into our home (I'm assuming through the kitchen window when I opened it to water my window sill flower box) and bit her six times (three times on each leg). She again experienced swollen, firm bites with extreme itching and pain. Right now, she's laid up on the couch because it hurts her to walk. I have been alternating NSAIDs and doing the recommended doses of antihistamines, in combination with topical anti-itch cream.

This has been a regular event for us every spring and summer.

Here are photographs of the swollen, painful mosquito bite that my daughter had last year. This was on the inner elbow area of her right arm. The red circle indicates the exact size of the bug bite. That is pretty extreme for a mosquito bite, if you ask me.

The very faint blue-ish line was the remnants of permanent marker that I had drawn on it the day before (to keep an eye on swelling). As you can tell, based on the size of it in this image, the swelling did increase overnight.
This is the bite on her elbow that had actually started to blister. This one looks significantly better than the one on her inner arm.
When I realized how huge her bug bite had gotten, I contacted her pediatrician who advised me to bring her in for an appointment. It should be noted that for medical professionals, it's difficult to distinguish between a response caused by infection and skeeter syndrome. They are very similar in appearance.

In fact, when I took my daughter to the office, her pediatrician considered the fact that it might be an infection. He couldn't make a clear diagnosis based on sight alone. He recommended antihistamines every six hours. If there was no improvement within 24 hours, he wanted to start her on a round of antibiotics. Fortunately, the antihistamines did reduce the swelling somewhat, so it was determined to not be an infection.

Note: This is what my daughter's pediatrician recommended for us based on my daughter's medical history—you need to see your doctor to find out what he/she recommends—this is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Even though antihistamines make a difference, the difference is very small. The bites are still painful and it seems that time is the best cure for the bites once they're there. It sucks to have to go through this every summer and I've seriously considered moving to Iceland (where there are no mosquitoes) just to avoid this mess.

It is very difficult watching your child suffer as a result of something that is considered only minor for most people.


Progression of Skeeter Syndrome


Here's how my daughter's "Skeeter Syndrome" progresses:

Initial Bite(s) - My child is bitten by a mosquito.

10 Minutes After Bite - After ten minutes, the mosquito bite is usually noticed, as it has already caused significant itching.

20-30 Minutes After Bite - The mosquito bite is still growing larger in size.

About 8 Hours After Bite - The mosquito bite has nearly doubled in size.

Day After Bite - The mosquito bite has nearly tripled in size and there is a small blister at the bite site. It is painful (usually even more painful when the bite site is on a joint, limbs, fingers, or if the site rubs against clothes).

Two Days After Bite - The bite may have quadrupled in size at this point. In some cases, the entire limb will swell around the bite site. It is firm, hot, and painful. 

Three Days After Bite - The bite has begun to reduce in size, slowly but surely. Itching is not nearly as severe.

Four Days After Bite - The bite continues to reduce in size. Discoloration in the skin is present and looks almost like bruising. 

Five Days After Bite - Discoloration remains. Swelling has gone down significantly. Discoloration will remain for up to three weeks after the bug bite. 

Sometimes, she'll experience a low-grade fever with these symptoms on day two or three. She has never experienced breathing or mouth difficulties.

As soon as I notice the bite, I wash the bite site and administer an oral children's antihistamine. I will also apply a topical steroid to the bite site. The next day is when I begin giving NSAIDs for pain and inflammation. I continue the oral antihistamine as needed. Incredibly, even WITH medication, it seems that the progression of Skeeter Syndrome is always the same and that the medication is only administered for comfort. 

Prevention


Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to avoid Skeeter Syndrome. We have tried many different preventative methods when we're outside.


Here are preventative measures that we have tried with the most success:
  • 30% DEET bug spray, applied every three to four hours
  • Lightweight long-sleeve shirts and lightweight pants
  • Wearing dark clothing and avoiding bright colors and/or floral patterns
  • Limiting time outdoors during dusk and dawn

Here are preventative measures that we have tried with little success:
  • Avon's Skin-So-Soft
  • Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • Citronella Essential Oil
  • Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • Lemongrass Essential Oil
Many people swear by Avon SSS and essential oils but we have found little success. Skin-So-Soft seemed to work for a very short period but required constant reapplication and at one point, my daughter came in with bites anyway. The same can be said for the essential oils that we used (we use RMO essential oilsthis is an affiliate link and I will receive compensation if you make an order via this link). To clarify, we love these oils for other purposes, we just don't find them beneficial in the prevention of mosquito bites).

In terms of mosquitoes themselves, there are steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of mosquitoes hanging near you're home. Here are some of the things that we do:
  • Spraying the perimeter of our house every spring with an insecticide
  • Removing any areas where water collects, including filling in any small holes in the yard and removing anything that might collect water (mosquitoes will lay eggs in standing water)
  • Keeping grass cut

Despite these measures, mosquitoes are still around, although there are not as many. I honestly don't think that there is any way to get rid of mosquitoes for good, which frustrates me. They truly are a nuisance and I feel that life would be much better without the little pests.

Do you or someone you know suffer from Skeeter Syndrome? If so, leave a comment below telling me about your experience. We're all in this together!


Disclaimer: This post was created for informational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking because of what you're reading here.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by this post is solely at your own risk.


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