When I was a camp counselor, I was getting mosquito bites left and right for three summers in a row. Sometimes my reactions to mosquito bites would be pretty average, maybe a little bit more of that swollen area or a little bit redder, but nothing crazy. However, every once in a while, I would get this ridiculously large reaction to a mosquito bite. I’m talking about a painful, baseball-sized reaction to a mosquito bite. I never understood why this happened to me and not other people, but the camp nurse and other random people would always give me the vague explanation of “you’re probably allergic to mosquito bites”. I’ve never fully understood that- aren’t we all allergic to whatever the mosquitoes put in our body when they bite us? This is what sparked my interest in researching if I could really be allergic to mosquito bites to a different degree than most others.
To give some background on what these bites are, it’s when a female mosquito puts the front of her mouth into one of your blood vessels, effectively putting her saliva straight into your bloodstream. The bite itself isn’t what causes the itchy reaction, but rather proteins that are in her saliva which stop your blood from clotting while the mosquito eats.
Apparently, the normal reaction to mosquito bite are small bumps that are red and itchy, which last for around two days. There are some people who are lucky enough to not have any reaction to mosquito bites, and they might not be allergic to the saliva or they could now be immune to it. Someone, such as myself, who could have a mosquito bite allergy, deals with a much more severe reaction than that. This study, published on the Public Library of Science, found that there could even be a difference in how attracted mosquitoes are to biting you because of your genetics. From their study, they discovered that mosquitoes usually didn’t prefer one identical twin to the other when they had the same genes. When they put two non-twins who had different genes to the test, they found that the mosquitoes preferred one of them over the other. A similar study by 23andMe found that something chromosome 4 could be the cause of this genetic difference. More research could help to figure out better prevention for mosquito bites, which cold also cause more serious issues such as Malaria and Zika. The null hypothesis in that study would be that people’s genetics do not lead to any preference for mosquitoes to bite them, and the alternative hypothesis would be that people’s genetics do in fact lead to a preference for mosquitoes to bite them. This results that came from this study could also be because of chance, or even a third confounding variable as well.
What I found is that the answer to my question is a strong yes- different people have different reactions to mosquito bites, and this could be because of varying allergies to proteins in the saliva of female mosquitoes. As of right now, there’s not much you can do about this other than wear bug spray and put on some anti-itch cream, but keep an eye out for more research on this topic if you’re like me and hate this somewhat extreme reaction to the bites.