CBD is now widely used in topicals such as creams and ointments. It is typically used to treat inflammation, acne, rashes, eczema, and psoriasis. However, the cannabinoid is still the subject of intense research, and every so often, potential new possibilities arise. One such left-field suggestion involves using it to treat mosquito bites.
According to the World Health Organization, mosquito bites kill over one million people; the majority of whom perish due to the effects of malaria. Moreover, there are at least 300 million cases of malaria annually. Tragically, a child dies from the condition every 30 seconds. The vast majority of fatalities occur in the developing world.
Although most mosquitoes are little more than nuisances, certain types spread infectious and potentially deadly diseases. For a lot of these viruses, there are no vaccines or medicines available.
These insects will bite you at any time of day or night, live inside or outside, and can hibernate in sheds and garages to survive low temperatures.
Mosquitoes are often associated with ‘tropical’ countries, but in reality, they are abundant in North America’s southernmost states. Mosquitoes have spread viruses to the point where they become epidemics. Well-known and deadly epidemics include the chikungunya and Zika viruses.
Keep reading to learn more about mosquito bites, and whether CBD is a viable treatment.
What Happens When You Get Bitten by a Mosquito?
Globally, there are over 3,500 different mosquito species, and 5% (around 175) of them live in North America. Fortunately for us, malaria is no longer classified as a public health issue in the United States. The development of a synthetic pesticide called DDT helped control the population of mosquitoes and effectively eliminated malaria in the United States in the 1950s.
Even so, America reports several hundred cases of the disease each year. Most patients are returning from places where malaria remains a problem, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where the disease remains a huge threat. While the mosquito varies in terms of color, size, and threat, they all share a love of mammalian blood.
As far as mosquito bites are concerned, we must be wary of the female of the species. To be more precise, the potentially deadly diseases carried by mosquitoes are caused by a parasite carried only by females of the Anopheles genus of mosquito. The problem here is that this species exists all over the world, barring Antarctica.
When you get bitten by a female mosquito, its saliva penetrates the skin and is identified as a dangerous foreign substance by the body. It reacts by sending lymphocytes (white blood cells) to the scene of the attack to defeat the ‘invader.’ The result of this battle is irritating and occasionally painful inflammation. The saliva remains in your skin cells for hours, and effects can last from a couple of days to a week.
As far as malaria is concerned, when a mosquito bites a person already infected by the disease, it passes the parasite to the next unfortunate victim. Malaria is a disease transmitted by blood, so you don’t have to worry about catching it from casual contact with an infected individual. However, you can catch it from a contaminated needle, blood transfusion, or a mosquito bite.
Symptoms of mosquito bites include:
- Small blisters that resemble hard lumps.
- Dark spots on the skin that look like bruises.
- A reddish-brown bump, or several of them, a day or thereabouts after being bitten.
- A white and reddish, puffy bump that usually appears within minutes of the bite.
There are also more severe reactions; often experienced by children, adults with no previous exposure to the mosquito type that bit them, or individuals with immune system disorders. Additional symptoms may include hives, low-grade fever, a large area of redness and swelling, and swollen lymph nodes.
As irritating as the bite is, don’t scratch it as you risk infection! If you get bitten by a mosquito, treatment options include:
- An OTC hydrocortisone cream.
- Calamine lotion.
- An ice pack or cold compress.
- Baking soda paste.
- An antihistamine.
- A heated-up spoon; the heat should destroy the protein that causes the reaction and at least cause the itching to stop.
See a doctor if you feel symptoms such as body aches, fever, headaches, or signs of infection. Another potential treatment option is CBD, but before we delve into the possible benefits of the cannabinoid, let’s check out a few ways to prevent mosquito bites.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure!
The most obvious way to prevent a mosquito bite is to steer clear of them. If you are in an area known to have mosquitoes, try to avoid performing any outdoor activities from dusk to dawn. If you are camping, double-check your tent to ensure there are no gaps or tears. Finally, place mosquito netting in as many places as possible.
The most effective insect repellents usually contain at least one of the following: DEET, Icaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. DEET tends to offer the longest-lasting protection. If you use sunscreen, apply it 20 minutes before adding the repellent. Keep DEET away from infants aged two months or younger, and don’t apply oil of eucalyptus to kids under the age of 36 months.
There is also an insecticide called permethrin which you apply to clothing, NOT skin.
Depending on the weather, wear clothing with long sleeves, light colors, light pants tucked into your socks, shoes with closed-toes, and a hat to protect your ears and neck. You can even attach mosquito netting to protect your face! You may feel (and look) silly, but it is a lot better than receiving a painful bite.
Around the Home
Here are a few tips if you live in a region with mosquitoes:
- Unclog your roof gutters.
- Change water in birdbaths weekly.
- Remove old tires.
- Empty wading pools weekly.
- Mosquitoes need standing water to breed, so eliminate it!
Finally, if you tend to react badly to mosquito bites, use a non-prescription antihistamine if you know you’ll be exposed to them.
CBD for Mosquito Bites: How It Helps
The prohibited status of marijuana means studying it is extremely difficult. With hemp-derived CBD recently removed from the list of controlled substances, we hope it leads to a significant increase in CBD studies.
As far as CBD’s possible effect on mosquito bites goes, it has everything to do with how our bodies react, and how CBD impacts the body. After a mosquito bite, inflammation occurs in the body and manifests itself as swollen, itchy, and red skin. CBD is widely believed to have potent anti-inflammatory effects which can reduce the irritating and painful symptoms associated with mosquito bites.
When you apply CBD to the affected area, it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors; the ones found in the epidermal (skin) cells to be precise. Cannabidiol can ensure that lymphocytes no longer need to carry out their duty. According to anecdotal reports, rubbing CBD on the bite area can alleviate the itching sensation in around 15 minutes. Even those who react badly to the bite and end up with large welts find that these bumps disappear within 12 hours or so.
Although there haven’t been any studies specifically covering CBD’s effectiveness on mosquito bites, there is research that looks at the cannabinoid’s anti-inflammatory effects. A study by Booz, published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine in September 2011, looked at the efficacy of CBD as a therapeutic strategy for reducing the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress.
In the study, Booz wrote that oxidative stress and inflammation are involved in the genesis of many human diseases. He continued by saying that CBD was “a promising starting point for further drug development given its [modest] antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on immune cells.”
A review by Bruni et al., published in the journal Molecules in October 2018, went into great detail to analyze the effects of cannabinoid delivery systems for pain and inflammation management. The research team discussed the effect of cannabinoids, such as CBD, on the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The paper acknowledged the effects of the endocannabinoid system on the inflammatory pathway, and said that cannabis could “improve neuropathic pain reducing the low-grade inflammation consistent with the pathology.”
A study by Darkovska-Serafimovska et al., published in the Journal of Pain Research in April 2018, found that CBD could reduce chronic pain by affecting endocannabinoid receptor activity. As a result, inflammation in the body is reduced.
Final Thoughts on CBD, Mosquito Bites, and Inflammation
Ultimately, mosquito bites remain a problem in North America even if the issue of malaria is mainly confined to nations in the developing world. Even if you don’t contract a possible deadly virus, a mosquito bite could cause a severe allergic reaction. While there are already a large number of methods for combatting the effects of mosquito bites and lots of ways to prevent them, CBD could be another weapon against these pests.
By reducing the inflammation caused by the bite, CBD could help alleviate the pain and itchiness caused by a mosquito bite, and possibly reduce the effects of severe reactions. While we can’t point you towards research into CBD and how it works on mosquito bites, there is a significant body of research which suggests that the cannabinoid can help reduce the effects of inflammation.
As the study by Bruni et al. pointed out, there are more than 1,000 articles published each year on cannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Just imagine how many more there will be if cannabis was legalized in more countries around the world. While it isn’t prudent to claim marijuana, hemp and their cannabinoids are ‘cure-alls,’ these complex plants surely warrant even more study.
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