Skeeter Syndrome: The Mosquito-Borne Illness Every Parent Should Know About

Mosquitos: the ruiner-in-chief of camping trips, pool parties, and late-night bonfires. And although these pesky little critters are no strangers to parents, thanks to threats of Zika and West Nile virus, there's another mosquito-related ailment parents should be wary of called skeeter syndrome.

So what exactly is skeeter syndrome? It's an allergic reaction to the proteins in mosquito saliva that can cause large areas to swell and become red and sore. And, of course, kids are the most likely to be affected by the illness.

Think your little one may have a case of skeeter syndrome? Scroll through to see what you should do about it.

What are the symptoms of skeeter syndrome?
Flickr user Judy Gallagher

What are the symptoms of skeeter syndrome?

Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist and immunologist at the Allergy & Asthma Network, told that kids' reactions can vary. "Most people get some type of reaction — a small bump and a little redness — but for some people it's really extreme," she said.

If you believe your child may be experiencing skeeter syndrome, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • a large inflammatory reaction to a mosquito bite within minutes or hours of being bitten
  • fever
  • soreness, redness, or warmth around the bite site
  • blistering, bruising, and even vomiting can take place in the most severe cases
How dangerous is skeeter syndrome?
Flickr user Max Noisa

How dangerous is skeeter syndrome?

Skeeter syndrome can be hard for parents to diagnose at first because the symptoms mimic those of an infection. The big difference between the two? Children with skeeter syndrome usually exhibit symptoms sooner.

Thankfully, skeeter syndrome is usually not as life-threatening as having an allergy to bees or wasps.

"The good news is it's not as dangerous as allergies to bees and wasps," said Dr. Parikh. "Those insect allergies can be deadly, and people need to carry EpiPens with them in case they go into anaphylaxis. Fortunately, we haven't seen any cases of skeeter syndrome that are that severe."

How do you treat skeeter syndrome?
Flickr user Mo

How do you treat skeeter syndrome?

Start by giving your kids an antihistamine, such as Benadryl. If the itchiness and redness is particularly nasty looking, try placing an ice pack on the area. "Applying ice or a cold compress can help too, because sometimes the bites get really red and hot and angry-looking," said Dr. Parikh.

But the best way to protect children who are prone to this illness? Keep it from happening in the first place.

"If you know you're predisposed to this, it's important to carry bug spray with you or wear clothing that covers your skin when you know you're going to be in a mosquito-infested area," explained Dr. Parikh.

When should you take a child to the doctor for skeeter syndrome?
Flickr user Laurie Wilson

When should you take a child to the doctor for skeeter syndrome?

Moms and dads should take their child to see an allergist if their symptoms don't subside; in some instances, tests may even be necessary.

"An allergist can diagnose it with a skin test in the office, but we can usually diagnose it clinically, as well," explained Dr. Parikh. "If someone comes in and their entire arm is swollen and red from a mosquito bite, it can be pretty obvious."

And if your little one keeps having allergic reactions, a long-term solution might be the best course of action. "Here in our practice, we do have one or two patients that get it so badly that they're getting desensitized through allergy shots, the same way they would for dust or mold," said Dr. Parikh.