Even a tiny insect bite can result in widespread, life-threatening infectious diseases.
For one, mosquito bites can infect a country with malaria. In 2016, for example, more than 900,000 cases of malaria took the lives of more than 4,000 people in South Sudan. Flea bites, on the other hand, were feared to contract “Black Death” in Arizona. Three people bitten by fleas ended up in a hospital and was diagnosed with a bubonic plague-the pandemic that killed millions of people in the 14th Century.
This is why a simple insect bite should not be ignored. It is also crucial to know the difference between mosquito bites and fleas bites. Doing so can help you make quick and smart decision when you got bitten by a mosquito or a flea.
Fleas and Mosquitos: Why and how they bite
Mosquitoes and fleas bite. But they bite for different reasons. Mosquitoes bite or sting to get the amount of blood they need to reproduce. The nutrients that female mosquitoes get from human blood are essential for the development of their eggs.
Mosquitoes use their proboscis –a hypodermic needle-like snout to pierce human skin and suck blood. As mosquitoes bite, they excrete saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. It is the saliva that carries and transmit communicable diseases.
Fleas, on the other hand, normally attack humans and warm-blooded animals like dogs, cats, and rodents. But fleas that bite humans are normally animal fleas. And unlike female mosquitoes, fleas bite for their own survival. They usually bite body parts below the knees.
Signs and Symptoms
Mosquito bites and flea bites may display similar symptoms. But there are many distinct manifestations that separate the two from each other.
Similarities in appearance and symptoms:
- Itch in the area where the penetration occurred.
- Swelling and redness.
- The appearance of hives and rashes.
- Irritations and inflammations.
- Fever due to complications.
Differences in appearance and symptoms:
- Mosquito bite
- Usually appears as a single, isolated bump.
- Pain and irritations around the bite.
- Flea bite
- Usually appears in clusters.
- Skin reactions manifest only if the skin is sensitive or allergic to the bite.
Complications: When to see a doctor
Both mosquito bites and flea bites can give rise to infectious diseases.
If any of these complications arise, immediately see a doctor.
Mosquito Magnet illustrates in an infographic how a headache, fever, and fatigue, the three most common symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases can signify more serious complications when combined with other signs such as the following:
- Chikungunya: Headache, fever, and fatigue with rash, severe joint pain, and joint swelling
- Malaria: Headache, fever, and fatigue with chills, discomforts, uneasiness, sweating, and a drop in body temperature
- West Nile Virus: Headache, fever, and fatigue with back pain, nausea, vomiting, and body pains
- Dengue Fever: A headache, fever, and fatigue with muscle, joint, and bone pain; eye pain; and bleeding gums (in rare cases).
- Yellow Fever: A headache, fever, and fatigue with chills, nausea, vomiting, back and knee pain, light sensitivity, and red eye/face/tongue
Flea bite complications
Flea bites can result in allergies, dermatitis (from Ctenocephalides felis or cat flea), and other communicable diseases such as bubonic plague.
Treatment and Remedies
When bitten by a mosquito or a flea, avoid scratching the affected area because doing so can create an opening in the skin. Bacteria may enter the opening and cause infections. Instead, wash the area with soap and water. If itch persists, you may apply an anti-itch cream, ointment, or ice. The following home remedies can also help:
For mosquito bites, you may use vinegar, raw honey, toothpaste, essential oils, onion, salt paste, baking soda, and lemons.
For flea bites, you may use tea tree oil, calamine lotion, cortisone, aloe vera, hazel, rubbing alcohol, and vinegar.
It is critical, however, to immediately see a doctor if any signs of mosquito- or flea-borne diseases manifest. The spread of communicable diseases can be effectively prevented if they are diagnosed early. Early diagnosis can also help the victim to immediately recover and avoid further complications.
Various precautionary measures can be taken to minimize mosquito and flea infestation, and thereby prevent bites.
Maintain cleanliness- Generally, parasitic insects like fleas and mosquitos do not thrive in clean environments. Regularly clean your surroundings and ensure that you leave no space for fleas and mosquitos to thrive.
Properly groom your pets and other animals- Fleas naturally live on furry animals like dogs and cats. To prevent fleas from multiplying, regularly and properly groom pets using recommended anti-flea medications.
Wear long sleeves and long pants- Wearing long and thick clothes particularly when going outdoors can prevent insects to have direct skin contact.
Use insect repellent- Bug sprays with DEET (chemical name, N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) or picaridin can help protect the skin from mosquito and flea bites.