After spending the evening playing with my kids at a local park (one which evidently does NOT use Mosquito Squad!), I spent this morning repeatedly applying hydrocortisone cream to my legs. My ankles especially are covered in bites – and now in white goo, too. Not my best look.
I get devoured by mosquitoes, and when I do, I itch. Badly. Like, scratch-till-I-bleed badly. I know some people who don’t even get bitten, much less itch when they do. I could curse their good luck—if I weren’t so busy cursing my bleeding bites.
So over the years of scabs and scars, I’ve often wondered, “What’s the DEAL with my skin? Why all the itch?” It turns out, several scientists at Washington University School of Medicine have been wondering the same thing (but in much more intelligent terms, of course). To answer these and other burning (bleeding!) questions, they recently launched the Center for the Study of Itch—the only one of its kind in the world. And it’s right here in St. Louis!
According to Zhou-Feng Chen, PhD, the center’s director, scientists don’t know a whole lot about why we itch and how to best treat itch, especially chronic itch due to cancer, disease, medications and allergic reactions. For a long time, they thought itch was a version of pain; working under this assumption, they didn’t do any new research on the topic.
Recently, however, scientists began studying itch as a separate, unique phenomenon. Using mouse genetics, they isolated an itch gene (which apparently I have!). This discovery led to additional findings about itch and how it’s communicated to and from our brains. “The time has arrived to study itch as a disease in its own right,” says Chen. Agreed!
The center’s scientists hope to apply their findings to more effective evaluations of and treatments for itch. A summer without scabs? White goo be gone? Now that would make for a pleasant walk in the park.
As always, Mosquito Squad of Greater Saint Louis‘ mission is to help make your outdoor experiences wonderful (by taking out the itch).
BUG BYTE: Only the female mosquito bites. And actually it’s not a bite. She pierces the skin with a straw-like proboscis looking for blood to get protein to lay eggs. She releases her saliva in the process which the human body sees as a foreign substance. We then produce histamine as a response resulting in the bump and nerve irritation, which causes the annoying itch!