www.whyville.net Aug 30, 2006 Weekly Issue

Science Column

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It is a beautiful summer day around a lovely mountain pond. The days are getting shorter, and the weather is just perfect. You are just about to go on a hike on this summer outing, but unexpectedly, a mosquito comes out of nowhere and bites your arm! "Oh great," you think as you smack the pest, "now I'm going to have an itchy bump on my arm for a week!"

How many times has this happened to you? Do you know why a mosquito bite leaves an itchy, pink bump? That is exactly what I wanted to solve.

First off, let us get one thing stated. Many of you may already know this, but I am going to state it anyways. Only the female bites, so they are the ones you need to worry about.

Now, back to the annoying itch. Why does it itch? Let us go inside the bite! When the female bites, she uses a small, almost surgical, hypodermic proboscis. Proboscis is just a fancy way to say nose, but I love to use it. She replaces the blood she takes out with the her own saliva. The bite is not what causes the itch, it is the saliva. It is true that parasites and diseases can be carried in mosquito saliva, but it is uncommon to get them. Imagine how many people get bit a day.

The itch that comes after the bite is actually an allergy! The more allergic you are to mosquito saliva, the bigger the bump and the more violent the itch. The less allergic you are causes the exact opposite, a small pink spot that may tickle a little appears. So, why is it that everybody is affected a little by mosquito bites?

That is actually a pretty easy question to answer. Allergies are given to you by your parents' genes. Just because they are not allergic to cats does not mean that you will not be allergic to cats, and just because they are allergic to peanuts does not mean that you will be allergic to peanuts. Since everyone in the world is affected by mosquito bites, everyone in future generations will be allergic to mosquito bites, some more than others. There are other ways to be allergic to things such as no exposure to it when you were young or gene mutations. We may hit on this allergy subject more in another article.

So, now you know why those skeeters make you itch! Try asking people around your school or home how allergic they are to mosquitoes. You may find out some interesting facts! Any comments? The BBS is open for discussion!

Your Scientist,


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