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Mosquito bites far worse than cozying up to bed-bugs, say experts

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

The thought of a bed-bug in the mattress or clothes is a dreadful thought. But skin specialists warn mosquito bites are far worse. Experts from the American Academy of Dermatology say bed-bugs might make you flinch, but mosquitoes spread disease that can be avoided.

Knowing which bugs carry disease is important for health

Bug bites cause reactions that are usually easy to manage. Mosquitoes are especially dangerous because they spread disease that can be fatal. Most bug bites disappear within a few days. Mosquito bites can transmit potentially fatal encephalitis.

Ronald P. Rapini, MD, FAAD, Josey professor and chair of the department of dermatology said at the at the American Academy of Dermatology’s Summer Academy Meeting 2011 in New York, “The key is knowing which insects pose the biggest risk and when it is necessary to see a dermatologist for treatment.”

For a mosquito bite that causes itching, swelling and redness, Rapini says a dermatologist can prescribe cortisone cream. But, the biggest concern is contracting a disease from the bite.

Outbreaks of Saint Louis encephalitis virus, dengue fever and West Nile virus can be spread by mosquitoes, leading to serious illness.

He says most people who contract Saint Louis encephalitis won’t become seriously ill, but those who do could experience inflammation of the brain. In some instances, the virus can be fatal.

Symptoms of illness from mosquito bite include headache, fever, vomiting and muscle aches.


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Dr. Rapini says even though bed-bugs get a lot of attention, they’re not nearly as dangerous as mosquitoes.

They can be avoided by washing clothes after staying in hotels. Putting luggage on the luggage rack can keep bed-bugs from hitching a ride back home with you.

Bed-bug bites can be itchy and hard to get rid of, but they don’t spread disease like mosquitoes.


The human bot fly can be transmitted to the skin via mosquitoes in the jungles of Central America. The egg of a maggot can burrow into the skin where it stays until it’s removed.

“Maggots hate to have the hole in the skin covered, so the best way to get them out is to slap a piece of pork fat or meat over the affected area of the skin for a few hours,” said Dr. Rapini. “The maggot is naturally drawn to the meat and will come out from under the skin and attach itself to the meat instead.”

Most bugs don’t pose a big threat to humans. The best strategy is to prevent mosquito bites. Rapini recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts when outdoors in the evening and using an insect repellent with DEET, which can be children.

Bed-bugs and maggots under the skin sound worse than they are. It seems mosquitoes are far worse than other insects, making it important to prevent bites that can cause serious illness and viral outbreaks.

Credit image: Morguefile