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Take That (smack) and That (swat) (06/01)

I just flew back from Miami and boy are my arms tired! OK I apologize for the bad joke, but I was in Miami with a few friends and many mosquitos. (One of my friends had 7 seven bites on her arm alone!) Needless to say, in between our sips of champagne we swatted and smacked the mosquitos away.

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Then this question came up – why do mosquito bites become raised and itch?

We all made our best guesses and swore we knew the answer at some point, but to be sure, I looked it up.

Only the female mosquito feeds on blood. Though we commonly call them mosquito bites, she’s not really biting you at all. The mosquito pierces the upper layer of your skin with her proboscis, a straw-like mouthpart that allows her to drink fluids. Once the proboscis breaks through the epidermis, the mosquito uses it to search for a blood vessel in the dermal layer underneath.

When she locates a vessel, the mosquito releases some of her saliva into the wound. Mosquito saliva contains an anti-coagulant that keeps your blood flowing until she is finished with her meal.

Now your immune system realizes something is going on, and histamine is produced to combat the foreign substance. The histamine reaches the area under attack, causing blood vessels there to swell. It’s the action of the histamine that causes the red bump, called a wheal.

But what about the itching? When the blood vessels expand, nerves in the area become irritated by the swelling. You feel this irritation as an itchy sensation.

article & image found on about.com

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