When you have cancer, everything is different. Even mosquito bites.

It’s summer here in northwest Wisconsin. We’ve had some warm, humid weather, and some excellent crops of mosquitos are hatching. And yes, there’s a connection between mosquitos and cancer. But don’t worry. Mosquitos don’t carry cancer.

Here’s the connection: If your oncologist prescribes some sort of immunotherapy, it will rev up you immune system so it works harder to destroy cancer cells. Your immune system may also react more strongly to other threats—including mosquito bites.

As mosquitos feed they inject saliva, which contains an anticoagulant so your blood stays nice and thin as they begin sucking up their lunch. Proteins in the mosquito’s saliva trigger your body’s immune system, which in turn produces histamines that result in redness, swelling, and itching.

After enough exposure most people develop a tolerance, and mosquito bites become less painful and itchy. (I’ve found when traveling, though, that mosquitos in other parts of the world seem to have something diffferent about their saliva. Initially, for example, bites from Norwegian or Chinese mosquitos felt like bee stings. Later, they weren’t quite so bad.)

The moral of the story: If you’re on immunotherapy, you may find that your body reacts differently to mosquito bites. Consider wearing long sleeves or using extra mosquito repellent.

Author: alcambronne

Retired photographer, author, and cancer survivor living in northwest Wisconsin.