Understanding the Increase in Mosquito Bites: Climate Change and Tiger Mosquitoes

2023-08-13 16:08:48

Mosquitoes bite more this year after periods of intense rain and cause unpleasant symptoms. The tiger mosquito also torments people.

This year, an unusually large number of mosquitoes are likely to make life difficult for people. Red wheals, extreme itching and inflammation of the skin: after the rain, the summer of 2023 not only brings sunshine and heat, but also an unusually high number of insect bites. But why are the flying bloodsuckers plaguing us more and more this summer? Among other things, the weather is to blame, according to two specialists in an interview.

Why are there more insect bites this year?

Dermatologist Daniela Kleeman from Zurich emphasizes that climate change is having a significant impact on the increase in mosquito bites: “An extremely warm early summer and the rainy weeks since the end of June create ideal conditions for mosquito reproduction,” says Kleeman. She also notices, especially in her private life, that bites are more common. So far, however, her practice has not been overrun.

Karin Hartmann, head of allergology at the University Hospital Basel, also sees the cause in the changed climate. In principle, however, the increase in stings is not due to the fact that the insects are becoming more aggressive, but rather to the quantity. Due to the current weather situation, there are more mosquitoes. And more mosquitoes led to more bites, Hartmann said.

Already in June are after an intensive rain phase in April the conditions for a mosquito plague were perfect. The change from rain to hot days favors the breeding conditions enormously, according to the Parasitology department at the University of Zurich. The last few weeks until the beginning of August were also wet and rainy, so the experts are again expecting a high number of mosquitoes.

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What is it about the tiger mosquito?

In addition to the well-known mosquitoes, another species of mosquito is also marking its territory: “Especially the tiger mosquito has spread greatly“, says Hartmann. The bites of the Asian tiger mosquito are painful and their spread is crowding out our native species. In addition, the tiger mosquito, in contrast to the usual mosquito, is also active during the day. It can potentially transmit viruses such as Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue, but no infections have been reported in Switzerland so far, says Hartmann.

Why are we suffering more now?

Because of the high number of stings or because of new insect species, people can react more sensitively to the insect venom than before, says Kleeman. In the case of the tiger mosquito in particular, the poison that is released when it bites leads to stronger reactions. This is because the tiger mosquito venom is not recognized by the immune system of many people who have never been bitten by it and can therefore lead to strong inflammatory reactions.

The skin reactions could also be due to bites and stings from other insects: Bites from ticks or bed bugs can cause reddening, the itching can become even more unbearable and the affected areas can become inflamed.

According to Hartmann, wasps and bees are also a problem: “Anyone who is stung by wasps, bees, bumblebees or hornets should react quickly,” says allergist Hartmann. “There are currently still deaths due to allergic shock.”

What can I do about the symptoms?

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In the case of wasps and bees, the case is clear: when the wheals expand and Symptoms such as shortness of breath and circulatory problems are added, immediate action is needed. Anyone who is allergic should carry adrenaline injections or antiallergic tablets with them, otherwise they should see a doctor as soon as possible, Hartmann recommends.

Mosquito bites should also be treated, especially if the itching becomes unbearable or the swelling is painful. recommended for treatment dermatologist Kleeman recommends the use of creams containing cortisone to alleviate the symptoms. If you feel unwell, vomit, have circulatory problems or have other allergic reactions all over your body, you should see a doctor to treat the symptoms quickly.

If it itches unbearably, a heat pen can now also help. The insect bite healers reduce itching and pain at the bite site. These are now available for smartphones (see box below).

This is how the heat pens work

A heat pen via smartphone? What at first seems like a toy works remarkably well. A study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Translational Medicine and Pharmacology ITMP showedthat smartphone heat pens (in the case of the study from the “Heat It” brand) reduce itching by up to 80 percent.

This is how it works: Plug in the heat pen for iPhone or Android like the charger and open the respective app. The duration can be set there, then press “Start” and press the heated pen on the smartphone on the spot. Voila. These heat pens for smartphones are available from online retailers for around 50 euros.

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How can I protect myself

It’s best not to get bitten at all. Both Hartman and Kleeman recommend preventive measures such as wearing long clothing, putting mosquito screens on windows and doors, and avoiding strong light sources in the evenings.

Various insect repellents are available in pharmacies for spraying or creaming on when you are outside. Mosquito plugs that you plug into the socket at home help indoors. It can also help yours to change shower gel or shampoo, because depending on the product have a magical attraction to mosquitoes. All of this should also help to reduce the number of bites in the current plague of mosquitoes.

Nav-Account rfi, 20 Minuten Time13.08.2023, 18:08| Act: 13.08.2023, 18:08
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