What is Skeeter Syndrome?

Skeeter syndrome is a large local reaction after a mosquito bite that can mimic an infection.

What’s your first thought if your child has a large swollen area that is hot, red, and either painful or itchy?

A child with Skeeter syndrome - a bite that quickly got red, hot, and swollen.
A child with Skeeter syndrome – a bite that quickly got red, hot, and swollen. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

You’re probably thinking that this bite is infected, right? It was gone without treatment over about 48 hours.

What is Skeeter Syndrome?

While that is certainly a possibility, if the reaction occurs right after a bite or sting, it is much more likely to be an inflammatory reaction – Skeeter syndrome.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology defines Skeeter syndrome as an inflammatory reaction to mosquito bites.
The term Skeeter syndrome was first used in a report by Simons and Peng in 1999.

Although the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology says that Skeeter syndrome is relatively rare, spend a few minutes with a pediatrician and they will likely tell you that we see it all of the time…

“The large local reactions to mosquito bites that we have designated as skeeter syndrome occur within hours of the bites and are characterized by the cardinal signs of inflammation: swelling (tumor), heat (calor), redness (rubor), and itching/pain (dolor). By inspection and palpation, it is impossible to differentiate between inflammation caused by infection and inflammation caused by an allergic response.”

Skeeter syndrome Case Studies

These reactions can be especially impressive, and scary, for parents if they occur on a child’s eyelid or penis – as loose tissue in these areas can lead to a lot of swelling.

So how can you tell if a child has Skeeter syndrome or cellulitis, an infection that requires antibiotics?

“The reactions were initially misdiagnosed as cellulitis and investigated and treated as such, although by history they developed within hours of a mosquito bite, a time frame in which it would have been highly unlikely for an infection to develop.”

Skeeter syndrome Case Studies

Although cellulitis can mimic or look just like Skeeter syndrome, it is the timing of the reaction, very soon after the bite, that will help you and your pediatrician make an accurate diagnosis. That’s important, because the treatments for Skeeter syndrome and cellulitis are very different.

In general, kids with Skeeter syndrome only require symptomatic care, perhaps an antihistamine and topical steroid cream, while cellulitis is treated with antibiotics.

Are there any other differences between Skeeter syndrome and cellulitis?

While cellulitis will likely continue to worsen, especially if it isn’t treated with antibiotics, you can expect the redness and swelling triggered by Skeeter syndrome to start to get better after two to three days. Keep in mind that many bites and stings do worsen over the first day or two though…

What Causes Skeeter Syndrome?

The large local reaction that occurs with Skeeter syndrome is triggered by antigens in the saliva of the mosquitoes.

While these typically just cause mild local reactions in most of us, others can have severe, delayed reactions, exaggerated local reactions, or very rarely, anaphylactic reactions.

“The children with skeeter syndrome remain healthy, except for recurrent large local inflammatory reactions to mosquito bites.”

Skeeter syndrome Case Studies

So what should you do for your child with Skeeter syndrome?

For one thing, use insect repellents so that they don’t get mosquito bites. And work to control the mosquitoes around your home.

You might also give them an age appropriate dose of a second-generation H1-antihistamine such as cetirizine to prevent or treat the reaction if they do get some bites.

Are mosquitoes the only insects that cause Skeeter syndrome?

By definition, yes.

But we often see these same type of large, local reactions (LLRs) after fire ant bites, bee stings, and other bites and stings.

“There is no clear definition of LLRs. They are generally described as any induration larger than 10cm in diameter around the insect sting. The swelling can occur immediately or 6 to 12 hours after the sting and can gradually increase over 24 to 48 hours. The swelling usually subsides after 3 to 10 days. LLRs represent a late-phase immunoglobulin E (IgE)–associated inflammation.”

Pansare et al on Summer Buzz: All You Need to Know about Insect Sting Allergies

Sweat bees, very small bees, for example, are notorious for “stinging” people around their eyes and causing what looks like periorbital cellulitis, as they like to drink the salt on our sweaty skin.

Is your child’s bite or sting infected?

Just remember, even if the area is hot, red, and swollen, if it got like that within hours of a bite, then it probably isn’t infected.

“The type of clinical reaction determines the risk of allergic reactions to future stings.”

Pansare et al on Summer Buzz: All You Need to Know about Insect Sting Allergies

And also be reassured that children who only have large local reactions are very unlikely to go on to have more severe, anaphylatic type reactions in the future.

More on Insect Bites and Stings

Have Questions About the First Generic Version of EpiPen?

Now that we have a real generic version of the EpiPen, what can we expect to happen to the prices of epinephrine injectors?

Have you heard the news that the FDA has approved the first generic version of the EpiPen?

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first generic version of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr (epinephrine) auto-injector for the emergency treatment of allergic reactions, including those that are life-threatening (anaphylaxis), in adults and pediatric patients who weigh more than 33 pounds.”

FDA Press Announcement on FDA approves first generic version of EpiPen

That’s likely surprising news to all of those folks who have been prescribing and using generic epinephrine injectors this past year.

Is This Really the First Generic Version of EpiPen?

Many remember that we all talk about EpiPens so much because their cost jumped from about $100 in 2006 to over $600 in recent years.

The current generic epinephrine injectors are authorized generics, so didn't need FDA approval.
The current generic epinephrine injectors are authorized generics, so didn’t need extra FDA approval.

That prompted Mylan, the company that makes the EpiPen 2-Pak and EpiPen Jr 2-Pak, to come out with a half-price authorized generic version last year.

“An authorized generic is made under the brand name’s existing new drug application using the same formulation, process and manufacturing facilities that are used by the brand name manufacturer.”

An authorized generic Adrenaclick injector also became available for a cash price of $109.99 CVS pharmacies. Combined with a $50 coupon, that’s often your best deal on an epinephrine injector if you don’t have insurance.

How Much Will the First Generic Version of EpiPen Cost?

And now we have a true generic version of the EpiPen 2-Pak and EpiPen Jr 2-Pak, from Teva Pharmaceuticals USA.

“The reduction in upfront research costs means that, although generic medicines have the same therapeutic effect as their branded counterparts, they are typically sold at substantially lower costs.”

FDA on Generic Drug Facts

Will it be cheaper than current EpiPens?

“When multiple generic companies market a single approved product, market competition typically results in prices about 85% less than the brand-name.”

FDA on Generic Drug Facts

It should be, but how much cheaper will it be?

“A company spokeswoman declined to say when it would be available, or how much it would cost.”

F.D.A. Approves Generic EpiPen That May Be Cheaper

While most folks would be happy with a $90 EpiPen and a tier 1 generic copay, I wouldn’t count on it. For one thing, we technically don’t have multiple generic EpiPens competing against the TEVA EpiPen yet.

And looking at drug prices of some of TEVA’s other medications, you can get a clue about their pricing plan:

  • Airduo generic (similar to Advair, but about 1/4 the price) – $98
  • Qvar (similar to Flovent) – $200
  • ProAir (albuterol inhaler) – $71
  • Budesonide Inhalation Suspension (generic Pulmicort Respules) – $176
  • Levalbuterol Inhalation Solution, USP (generic Xopenex) – $121
  • Clindamycin Phosphate and Tretinoin Gel (generic Ziana) – $600
  • Cefdinir oral suspension (generic Omnicef) – $45
  • Syprine (generic trientine hydrochloride) – $18,375

Their drugs typically ain’t cheap…

Will the first generic version of the EpiPen simply be a little cheaper than the authorized generic or can we expect TEVA to offer it at substantially lower cost?

What’s your guess?

More on the First Generic Version of EpiPen

Avoiding Confusion During an Allergy Attack – Adrenaclick vs EpiPen Directions

Learn how to avoid confusion by learning when and how to use different epinephrine injections, including the EpiPen and Adrenaclick injectors.

Whether you have an EpiPen or Adrenacick injector, make sure everyone around your child with allergies knows how to use it.
The FARE Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan provides detailed instructions for all available epinephrine injectors.

The price of EpiPens has been in the news a lot recently.

Most people know that they went Mylan’s EpiPen 2-Pak went from costing about $100 in 2006 to over $600 today and that there has been little or no competition.

One competing device, Auvi-Q was recalled in 2015, but it was fairly expensive too.

Good News and Bad News About EpiPens

Things have gotten better recently.

First, a generic EpiPen 2-Pak is now available. It costs $339.99. While still expensive, it does lower co-pays for many people with good insurance.

The latest news? A generic Adrenaclick injector for $109.99 at CVS pharmacies.

Even better, coupons are available that can make the injectors free for many people.

So what’s the bad news?

The directions for using the EpiPen 2-Pak and the Adrenaclick are not the same. That can cause some confusion. Do you want someone to grab one and not be sure how to use it when your child is having a life-threatening allergic reaction?

That makes it important for everyone to be familiar with both types of epinephrine injectors.

Adrenaclick vs EpiPen 2-Pak Directions

The fact that the Adrenaclick has two caps that you need to remove before use, while the EpiPen only has one, can lead to confusion. Also, the Adrenaclick injector, despite its name, doesn’t actually ‘click’ after you use it, like the EpiPen does.

EpiPen 2-Pak auto-injector directions:

  1. Remove the EpiPen Auto-Injector from the clear carrier tube to find an EpiPen Jr (green label) or EpiPen (yellow label).
  2. Remove the blue safety release by pulling straight up without bending or twisting it.
  3. Swing and firmly push orange tip against mid-outer thigh until it ‘clicks’.
  4. Hold firmly in place for 3 seconds (count slowly 1, 2, 3).
  5. Remove auto-injector from the thigh and massage the injection area for 10 seconds.

Remember that the orange end is the needle end! And you know that your child got your dose if you heard the click sound.

Adrenaclick epinephrine auto-injector directions:

  1. Remove the outer case.
  2. Remove grey caps labeled “1” and “2”.
  3. Place red rounded tip against mid-outer thigh.
  4. Press down hard until needle enters thigh.
  5. Hold in place for 10 seconds. Remove from thigh.

With the Adrenaclick injector, the red tip end is the needle end! Do not touch this end or you could unintentionally inject your self. After use, the needle should be visible.

Avoiding Confusion About Your Epinephrine Injector

All of the epinephrine injectors are easy to use. At least on paper.

In the heat of the moment though, when a child is having a life-threatening allergic reaction, it may not seem so easy though.

It will likely be even more difficult if the epinephrine injector you grab is not what you are expecting. Make sure you know how to use your epinephrine injector, both when your pediatrician prescribes it and when your pharmacist dispenses it to you (in case you get a different one, which is allowed in some states).

  1. Read the instructions.
  2. Watch a video.
  3. Use a trainer device.
  4. Be prepared!

It is also important that anyone that watches your child, whether it is a family member or the school nurse, knows how to use your child’s epinephrine injector.

“Individuals and caregivers are often reluctant to use self-injectable epinephrine in anaphylaxis despite instruction to do so.”

Pediatrics March 2007

Other things that can lead to confusion about epinephrine injectors include that you:

  • use an EpiPen or Adrenaclick training pen instead of the real injector with active medication when your child is having an anaphalytic reaction
  • use the real injector when you meant to use the training pen
  • don’t carry your child’s epinephrine injector with you at all times, which is why it is important to get more than one injector each time, allowing you to keep one at school, one at home, and one and travels with your child, etc., eventually allowing your child to carry his or own epinephrine injector at an age-appropriate time
  • forget to move to a higher dose of epinephrine as you child grows, keeping in mind that the Jr (0.15mg) dosing is only for kids under 66 pounds
  • aren’t sure when to use your EpiPen or Adrenaclick injector or are afraid to use it, which can lead to an unnecessary delay in your child getting a lifesaving treatment
  • don’t get a refill if your epinephrine injectors have expired or you actually needed to use one
  • understand that you still need to call 911 after you have used your epinephrine injector, even if your child begins to immediately feel better. Symptoms can return, which is why you are given two doses (2-Pack) of epinephrine.

A good Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan can help avoid much of this confusion. In addition to easy to read instructions on when to give epinephrine, this type of plan should include directions for your child’s epinephrine injector.

When in doubt – you should usually give epinephrine if you have any concerns that your child is having an anaphylactic reaction. It is a safe medicine.

More Information About Epinephrine Injectors

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