The People's Perspective on Medicine

Beware Skeeter Syndrome: Mosquito Bites That Won’t Quit

No one likes mosquito bites. They itch like crazy, but usually last for only a short time. People with skeeter syndrome are far worse off. The bites last!

We’ll bet you’ve never heard of skeeter syndrome. That’s because most people react to mosquito bites with a red spot and itching that only lasts for a few minutes. At worst, a really nasty mosquito bite might linger for an hour or two. Most people never see a doctor about such bites. That’s because the itching and redness are long gone by the time an appointment can be made. For some people, though, mosquito bites can be really long lasting. They make susceptible individuals miserable.

Steroid Soothes Skeeter Syndrome:

Q. I suffer from unusually severe reactions to mosquito bites. Each bite causes a red swollen area the size of a quarter. I’ve learned to never scratch, as the red area will grow to several inches and take weeks to clear up.

Last summer, about 20 bites while I was gardening caused an immune system reaction that triggered eczema that lasted for months.

After I’d suffered for years, a dermatologist prescribed triamcinolone. It’s been life changing. Just the smallest dab on a mosquito bite makes it disappear within 24 hours. A bite rarely needs a second application.

Why isn’t this medicine mentioned as a treatment for extreme mosquito bite reactions?

What Causes Skeeter Syndrome?

A. There is a medical term for your exaggerated reaction to mosquito bites. It’s called “Skeeter Syndrome” (American Family Physician, Dec. 15, 2013).  The intense redness and itching is caused by allergens in the saliva of mosquitoes. Symptoms can persist far longer than a typical bite response. Why some people are hypersensitive remains a mystery.

Some people (I am one of them) react in a similar way to chigger bites. A chigger bite leaves a big red itchy area. If not treated promptly, a blister can form. The itching is often unbearable. The bumps and blisters can last for weeks.

Overcoming Skeeter Syndrome:

The best way to overcome such extreme reactions is with topical prescription-strength corticosteroids like triamcinolone. My dermatologist prescribes an even stronger steroid called clobetasol (Temovate).

At the first sign of a chigger bite I put a tiny dab on the red, itchy spot. I follow up for a few days and usually the bite never gets a foothold and the itching is bearable. The sooner a strong topical steroid is applied after a bite the better.

Prednisone: The Big Gun!

Oral prednisone is sometimes warranted in the case of an extreme bite reaction.

One physician described treatment this way:

“Antihistamines are usually the only treatment required for insect bites; however, severe mosquito reactions (skeeter syndrome) may require prednisone. Applying insect repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) 10% to 35% or picaridin 20% is the best method for preventing bites.”

Home Remedies for Easing the Itch of “Normal” Mosquito Bites:

Most people do not suffer from Skeeter Syndrome. What they need is temporary relief from the itching. Readers have come up with all sorts of solutions for minor itching:

  • Hot water…not so hot it will burn. A second or two application is all you need.
  • Hot Spoon, which uses the same principle of heat.
  • Battery-Powered Heat. Therapik or Bite Helper provide heat to the bite using battery power.
  • Vicks VapoRub

You can learn more details about these and other home remedies for mosquito bites at this link:

How to Prevent and Stop the Itch of Mosquito Bites FAST!

Share your own story in the comment section. Have you ever heard of skeeter syndrome? What works best for you to stop the itch?

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Citations
  • Juckett G, "Arthropod bites." American Family Physician, Dec. 15, 2013.
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I use a name-brand antihistamine gel immediately after getting a bite; it stops any reaction. If I don’t notice the bite right away, but within a few hours the gel still stops it. If I don’t catch it until hours after, I am itching that spot for days after even tho I use the gel.

I once had an itch-stopping applicator that worked. Smelled like it was ammonia.

Funny! I used to say I had been bitten by “Super Skeeters” because the bites would swell up so big and last for sometimes 3 weeks! I found this to work fast: 1) wash gently with soap and water. 2) soak a cotton ball with alcohol, and tape it to the bite using skin tape. This pulls out the itch and kills the bacteria better than anything else I’ve tried. Leave the cotton ball on for several hours, and the bite will shrink down and go away quickly.

In my experience, it depends on where the mosquitoes come from that have bitten you. Down in the bay area of California, and up in British Columbia, I have had bad reactions to bites. I usually always used to
put camphor on bites immediately. Here in the Seattle are, the mosquitoes are much less of a problem. Just gently rubbing the bite makes all itching go away.

I am 71 years old and still have scars from infected mosquito bites received on a vacation to wetlands Maryland when I was 10 years old. What a miserable time!

For mosquito bites, I use the same thing as for insect stings: a paste made of meat tenderizer and a bit of water. It seems to neutralize things. Otherwise, the bite itches for days, and the area swells and stays red, sometimes for a couple of weeks.

Wow… this is me. My bites take 10+ months to go away and spider bites even longer… sending this to my doc

OMG! Never heard of Skeeter Syndrome but I have a critter that silently bites me on my head or neck area usually when I am sweating and outside weeding or working in garden. The last bite just at the base of my ear. It swells up to size of a quarter, and this time the swelling went down my neck side almost to my clavicle. My neck was stiff, and I could see swelling all the way down to clavicle. I will be going to my physician armed with the information I have read. I have tried cortisone cream 2%, antihistamines, etc., with little to no effect. If I spray my head and neck area with cedar spray I usually do not get bitten by the critters. My bites last for weeks. I am just miserable when I am bitten. Mosquito bites do not affect me in this manner. Thank you so very much for posting this information.

My itching stops when I take a warm shower and clean the bite area with soap.

I’ve never heard of skeeter syndrome but I definitely suffer from it, particularly if they bite around my ankles and feet. I’ve had my feet get so swollen I couldn’t wear shoes. Benadryl extra strength gel works best for me. What is interesting is that this problem only occurs with what I refer to as native mosquitoes. If I get bitten by Asian Tiger mosquitoes, the bite goes away in a few hours.

I’ve had severe reactions to mosquito bites all of my life. I recently discovered that a drop or two of essential oil blends containing copaiba and frankincense shrink the swelling and stop the itching.

I used an ointment like Cortisone 10 (1%) on chigger bites that was effective. I used it for a week to get relief. It’s an OTC medicine so no prescription is necessary. Use it two or three times a day.

I do not have Skeeter Syndrome, but am very attractive to mosquitoes. I recently purchased a Therapik and it has greatly reduced the amount of itching I suffer after being bitten.

Yup, I’ve got “Skeeter Syndrome,” and in allergy testing years ago I reacted to 1/10,000 of a mosquito bite! One bite on my ankle meant fever plus swollen foot, leg, knee and horrible itching lasting quite a while… I swear by TheraPik these days, often using it 3 times on a bite before it helps. So much better than meds!

Definitely have skeeter syndrome. Can vouch for the hot water treatment – if the bite is someplace that the faucet can reach easily, and you let the water get as hot as you can possibly stand. Will try cortisone cream next time also.

I have the same exact reaction to mosquito bites. The itching lasts for many days and they become big and red circles. I have discovered that applying a slice of cut lime on the bites have been the solution!! i suppose its because it acts as an antiseptic for the bite area and the redness and itching disappears almost completely the next day !

This came at the perfect time. I think this might be my issue. I have diabetes, and mosquitoes seem to love me. I wish there was a possum in my yard. I plan to ask my doc about this as my skin gets more sensitive as I age.

Once I got my allergies under control with shots (four years worth) and anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric, all it takes to calm a bug bite is camphor, the active ingredient in the children’s itch cooling gel put out by Benadryl, also an ingredient in Vick’s.

We’ve been invaded with wasps. My three day-old bites are getting worse. Thanks, I’m going to try these remedies on them.

I have Skeeter Syndrome, and mosquitoes literally feast on my skin. I also use Triamcinolone Acetonide. It works great, and is the only thing that has. Sometimes using After Bite immediately after getting bitten, works.

I didn’t know it was called Skeeter Syndrome. Yes, I am afflicted with it. No-see-um bites are awful as well as chiggers. Hot water works the best for me. If I cannot get to hot water, I hold an ice cube on the bite. Vick’s has worked well too. Many years ago, at least 45, I had six chigger bites on my back. The bites turned into lumps, and I itched for days. My father said to put kerosene on them. I would not. Finally out of desperation, I relented. He got a Q-Tip and dabbed a small amount of kerosene on each bite. I could feel the relief instantly, bite by bite, as each spot was treated. However I do NOT recommend this toxic method. Stick to the other remedies.

I have always been the mosquito bait in the group, wearing the neon sign that says, “Bite here (and here, and here…)!” However, I have not had a single bite this year despite a very rainy spring and summer. The only way I can account for this is cutting out all sugar (except for a bowl of berries every morning) since changing to a LCHF diet last fall. Something to consider!

I developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia about three years ago. Thankfully, it has remained very low-grade and has not required treatment. But I now have such excessive reactions to mosquito bites that I avoid going outside much of the summer. Even with repellent, I get bitten, and July is when I have the worst reactions. If I get bitten on my forearms, within a day my skin blisters and breaks down around the bite, and an area the size of a quarter will weep for days and then take weeks to heal. And my entire forearm swells and itches intensely. Triamcinolone lotion seems to make things worse, and I become hyper-sensitive even to bandaids. My doctor tells me this is due to the CLL, and gave me the topical lotion but has never suggested oral prednisone. I’m going to ask about that at my next visit. I have found that your suggestion to use heat to alleviate itching does help, although it’s effective for a longer time on more typical small bites.

If you have tested tea tree oil on yourself (24hrs small spot) previously, I find this helps itch, reduces inflammation, in addition to reducing the risk of staph colonization (or MRSA), fungal infections, or just about anything. For sensitive skin areas, tea tree oil can be diluted (coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba or witch hazel) up to 10 x and can still help. Use glass bottles only, apply with Qtip as needed.

Topical steroids are much better than oral steroids, but be cautious! Side effects can include thinning of the skin and turning off your own steroid production, especially if applied more than a few days to thin skin areas (or in children).

Toothpaste stops itching from mosquito bites! It doesn’t seem to matter what brand. Extremely effective!

I believe I have a case of Skeeter Syndrome, a term I have never heard until today. I am 74 years old and have had this problem all my life. My mother often had to take me, but not my brother, to the doctor because of infected mosquito bites. I recall that he gave me a small squeeze tube of dry sulfa drug, the name of which I don’t remember. I had to dampen the bites and squeeze out a small amount of the dry medicine that eventually cleared up the infection. Mosquito bites on me itch like crazy!! If I scratch at all, I get infection at the bite sites. Out of necessity, I started using an antiseptic cream with lidocaine as soon as I get bites. It stops the itching and stops infection. I carry a tube of the cream with me at all times! I love your site and faithfully read the articles in every edition. Thanks for such helpful information!!

I’m surprised they didn’t mention permethrin as a preventative to mosquitoes biting you in the first place. You put it on your clothing, shoes and hat, not your skin. I’ve used it in mosquito and tick country with great success.

Several years ago while briefly sitting on a chair in the grass, I got bitten by something. It was 24 hours later before the itching began. By then both legs (ankles to below knee) were covered w/small red spots The itching was unbearable. Two visits to ER was a waste of time. Finally Primary Dr gave me a jar of triamcinolone acetone cream. Applied over itch area 3 x times daily. Very little relief. What I discovered on my own was small pieces of wet paper towel frozen for a minute or two in my freezer then applied to itchy area. Instant relief from itches. That is my go-to remedy for any itchy areas.

While my reaction isn’t a week-long one, the itch and redness persists for several days. I have learned that if I can avoid scratching and put an ice cube on it instead, I can usually avoid further itching, and the bite goes away. Sometimes it takes a couple of ice applications but that beats days of scratching.

I live in an area where at times during the year, mosquitos can carry your car off they are so big and so numerous. Last year, a friend recommended Vitamin B-1. I started taking it daily and I have yet to have a mosquito bite. I don’t know if it works for everyone, but it sure does for me.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to see this. Mosquito bites last on me for at least a week, and the itching returns with a vengeance usually at early evening each day. I’ve complained about it for many, many years. Worse, I’m like a mosquito magnet. Always wondered what the heck was going on. Now I know at least why the bites itch so long. I had learned to use a mild prescribed cortisone cream to dab on. Thankfully that does the trick. Didn’t know others suffered too.

I’m not sure if I have the syndrome but I do react very negatively to mosquito bites. Each one becomes a large reddened area that itches like crazy. My defense is to try to prevent them. I’ve found the Thermacell products, especially the one worn on your body really work and keep the bugs away.

Try Zincuta Ointment. For me, it stops the red, the itch and reduces the bump. You may need more than one application and applying it as soon as you notice the bite helps.

Using a hair dryer for local heat application is another effective method to combat itching and more from insect bites.

“Skeeter bites,” plus any stings, trigger psoriasis (PPP), and I have an already-compromised immune system. I always carry ampules of the old Sting Kill, which if quickly applied (sometimes 2-3 times, depending on how soon I treat the bite), stops the itch, swelling and redness and the days of dealing with it. Sting Kill contains benzocaine USP 20% and Menthol USP 1%. I keep ampules with me, near the doors of my house, in the garden shed and in my car. I never go outside without it in the warm months.

I had no idea I had skeeter syndrome! All these years dealing with the red itchy areas for days and days on end. I thought everyone else had the same reaction to mosquito bites that I had.

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