Pardon the bitching, but where's the itching?
July 12, 2011 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Plenty of mosquitos, but there's something missing... the itch!

My husband and I went out to enjoy the fireworks at the local Canada Day festivities recently and were naturally inundated with flies. It was incredibly annoying while we were out there, and we kept swatting them away. I expected to have several itchy bumps the next day. We both remarked in the morning how incredibly not-itchy we felt, considering. Our toddler (who can't quite speak yet), appeared to be similiarly unaffected--not a bump on her. These were definitely mosquitos, I saw them, and continue to see them. I feel a slight itch as they're biting, but then it's gone.

What's going on here? Have we mutated into super-mosquito-bite-resistant humans (diet, or whatever)? Am I just managing to smack them all away in time? Highly doubtful during this particular incident as we were out for about an hour and being driven nuts. Is this some effect of the 'spraying' that's apparently been done in recent years here in Ontario to mitigate West Nile virus? Honestly this possibility wouldn't surprise me, since I can't recall any bad summers for this recently, despite spending plenty of time outdoors. If this is the case I'd love further explanation. Could it be that the histamine reaction to these particular country-mosquitos isn't as bad as the city-mosquitos I grew up with? Is this a result of our preference unscented or more naturally scented bath products? Are we just getting.... OLD?

I'm stumped on this one! I hate to ask, because I'm not complaining (I swear!) but it's been a very curious observation for us.
posted by sunshinesky to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
Some people are less sensitive, and most people generally develop tolerances to the bite of mosquitoes they are exposed to often.
posted by justkevin at 9:04 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, some people just don't react to mosquito bites that much. Others swell up and look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Just like some people attract mosquitos like nobody's business while others get away without even a nibble. It's just one of those quirky little things that makes my summers an endless torment.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:09 PM on July 12, 2011

i have the opposite problem- the older i get, the worse my reaction to mosquitoes gets. depending on where they bite me, i can end up with welts nearly as big as a quarter that itch for a week! i thought this was over the top so i did some googling and found an article explaining that most people, as they get older either increase or decrease in their sensitivity to bites. it's been a couple years since i read that so i don't know if i could find it again, but offhand i'd say you must just be in the lucky group whose sensitivity has dropped off.

as far as the immune reaction goes, i don't remember a ton from my immuno class years ago but i know there can be various responses to allergens, including tolerance and hypersensitivity. maybe the lucky ones simply develop tolerance while the ones like me develop hypersensitivity? but i do think it's more likely to do with your particular immune systems rather than the mosquitoes themselves.

(and seriously, enjoy being in the lucky group! i have also read that mosquitoes are more drawn to certain types of people- IIRC pale people, or maybe people of a certain blood type or something- but i swear they always find me and attack within minutes. it's hell.)
posted by GastrocNemesis at 9:13 PM on July 12, 2011

We share two things in common...I'm in Ottawa, and I have no reaction to mosquito bites either. Quite the talent when I was a kid, I would let the mosquito suck away until they were bloated with blood, then SMACK 'EM just before they pull out. Gross and disgusting, and made me a legend.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:14 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

upon googling, i did not find the original article i read years ago but i did find this which may be of interest.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 9:22 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I distinctly remember getting itchy red welts from mosquito bites as a kid but have very little to no reaction now. Not that I was ever that popular with mozzies anyway, at least when my very fair sister was around to distract them with her far more appealing smell and tastier blood. One camping trip we went on as kids, I averaged about one bite to every twenty of hers (I'm the one who got malaria though, so don't feel sorry for her).
posted by Wantok at 9:30 PM on July 12, 2011

Yeah, it's just an allergic reaction, and like all allergies they can change over time and some are less affected than others.
posted by sweetkid at 11:07 PM on July 12, 2011

Just more anecdotes: Wifey and I were just talking about this yesterday afternoon and she and my daughter were both more affected by mosquitos this summer -- not more swelling, but definitely more pain at the bite spot. For me, I haven't had an 'itchy' mosquito bite in years, and rarely ever even get a bump. My guess is that there are a lot of factors involved in what causes a mosquito bite, from immune system to the mosquito's genetics to whatever the mosquitos have been standing in lately, so it's maybe something to note, but not anything in your control.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:57 AM on July 13, 2011

Yeah, your response to mosquito bites can change over time. As a kid, I got huge swollen welts that faded to awful yellow bruises, sometimes a few inches across. These days I itch for ten minutes and I'm done. It's very mysterious.
posted by nonasuch at 7:35 AM on July 13, 2011

Response by poster: So basically, as I feared, I'm just getting older, and subsequently more resistant?

Ha, well I guess it makes sense that I'd develop a resistance after some 26 years in the general area, but I'm still a bit curious about my husband and daughter's apparent resistance, as he's not a local and she's, well, "new".

I guess I'd better just count myself lucky then. I'm not going to mark a 'best' answer, but I will mark as resolved.

Thanks all!
posted by sunshinesky at 8:01 AM on July 13, 2011

In my own case I believe it can be explained by levels of histamine in the body. I have seen a correlation between things that raise histamine such as eating foods I have tested allergic to, or medications and how badly a bite affects me.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2011

When I was younger, I found that if I swatted a mosquito I ended up with an itchy welt. If I gritted my teeth and let the bug finish feeding and fly away of its own accord, there was no welt or itch.

I haven't tested that recently, though.
posted by chazlarson at 10:06 AM on July 13, 2011

What meds are you on? I find that when I'm taking Singulair (for asthma), bites last less than an hour, when otherwise they last for a day at least. (anecdotal evidence, of course, but it makes medical sense at least to my non-medically trained mind)

This probably wouldn't apply to your toddler, though... hmm.
posted by ropeladder at 10:12 AM on July 13, 2011

Response by poster: Neither of us are on meds at the moment, so that's not it! I occasionally take claritin for plant/pet allergies but it's so infrequent, that I doubt there's any correlation there.
posted by sunshinesky at 12:52 PM on July 14, 2011

« Older Should we have flowers professionally done?   |   IS British food really as bad as the rumors make... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.