- The Mosquito Bite Survival Guide
- When A Mosquito Bites
- The Female Tracks You Down By Sight, Smell And Feel.
- What Do Mosquito Bites Look Like?
- Sweet Relief: How To Stop Mosquito Bites From Itching
- But Wait… Why Not Just Prevent Mosquito Bites?
- 1. Tea tree oil
- 2. Honey
- 4. Milk and water
- 5. Lemon or lime juice
- 3. Lavender oil
- 7. Toothpaste
- 8. Basil
- 6. Coconut oil
- 10. Ice or ice pack
- 11. Tea bags
- 12. Cortisone
- 9 home remedies for mosquito bite itch
- Why do mosquito bites itch so badly?
- What is the best treatment for mosquito bites?
- What helps mosquito bites stop itching fast?
- How do you keep mosquitoes from biting you?
- The Dos and Don’ts of Mosquito Bites
- Mosquito Bite Care
- Whatever You Do, Don’t Scratch a Mosquito Bite
- When to Seek Treatment for Mosquito Bites
- What About Home Remedies for Treating Mosquito Bites?
- Prevent Mosquito Bites From Occurring in the First Place!
- Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
- Here’s The Best Way to Stop a Mosquito Bite From Itching
- Tick bites
The Mosquito Bite Survival Guide
When A Mosquito Bites
Females are typically the only mosquitoes that feed on blood, and they do it because they need the protein to help develop their eggs. Without it, the eggs don’t mature to the point that the female mosquito can lay them for hatching.
The Female Tracks You Down By Sight, Smell And Feel.
Her head consists mainly of two giant compound eyes able to pick up movement and bright colors from long distances. From as far away as 120 feet, she can smell the carbon dioxide you exhale and the lactic acid that gathers on your skin from sweat. A little nearer, and your body heat begins to draw her like the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign at Krispy Kreme.
The mosquito lights on your exposed skin and slides a serrated proboscis into you, searching for a capillary. At the same time, she injects saliva that contains enzymes to dull the pain and keep your blooding from clotting. Left uninterrupted, she will draw blood until her abdomen is full.
What Do Mosquito Bites Look Like?
Those enzymes are the problem.
Your body doesn’t like them because they are foreign invaders, so your mast cells release histamine, a naturally occurring substance which rushes to the site and causes blood vessel to enlarge. Sometimes the body releases too much histamine. The result is mosquito bite swelling, or what’s called a “wheal.” The area around the bite rises, turns red and begins to itch.
How much and for how long varies from person to person, but swollen mosquito bites generally are about the size of a dime and last about a day. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic report that, in some people with extreme sensitivities, mosquito bites can swell to the size of grapefruits and linger for days.
And occasionally, there are people who experience anaphylaxis, a severe reaction to mosquito bites. When that happens, the person’s throat can swell shut, restricting breathing, the person’s skin may break out into hives – itchy red bumps – anywhere on the body, not just at the bite. While rare, the reaction can be life-threatening, according to the Mayo.
WebMD reports that repeated mosquito bites over a lifetime may help people become immune to the saliva, or can have the opposite effect, making a person even more sensitive.
Sweet Relief: How To Stop Mosquito Bites From Itching
There are a lot suggestions for soothing the discomfort of an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite. Some are common-sense, some medical and some just a little odd. But they all have advocates who swear they work. Among The Suggestions:
- Don’t scratch the bite. That only irritates your skin further and could lead to infection. Give it a light washing with soap and cool water.
- Try calamine lotion. The pink goo, a favorite of moms everywhere, is a mixture of zinc oxide and iron oxide and works as a cooling, all-purpose soother. The Food and Drug Administration declared in the early ’90s that it’s ineffective in treating itches, but doctors still recommend it. You might also try Caladryl, which contains both calamine and an analgesic to help relieve the sting.
- Apply an OTC hydro-cortisone cream. The cream contains corticosteroids which will counteract the effect of the histamines and help reduce the swelling, which should give you some relief from the mosquito bite itch. An anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen will also help.
- Use a cold compress or ice pack. Histamines dilate the blood vessels, filling the affected area with excess blood. Cold causes the vessels to constrict, so that the amount of blood is reduced around the bite.
- Take an antihistamine. This won’t work immediately, but an OTC medication like Benadryl will prevent histamines from binding with receptors at the blood vessels. The vessels in the bite area return to normal, and the swelling and itching dissipates. Remember, you can take an antihistamine before going outside to minimize your allergic reaction to a mosquito bite.
- Dab on some baking soda paste. For some reason, the Mayo Clinic doctors – and dozens of home-remedy advocates – suggest adding a bit of water to regular baking soda, then applying the paste to the mosquito bite. The reason isn’t clear, but it apparently helps relieve the itch.
- Heat up a spoon and apply to the bite. The heat will destroy the protein that caused the reaction and the itching will stop.
- Go homeopathic. Suggestions range from rubbing the bite with the inside of a banana peel to dabbing on toothpaste to covering the bite with mud. Dr. Alan Greene, pediatrician and prolific health writer, suggests that some natural anti-inflammatory remedies such evening primrose oil may also help reduce the swelling and itching associated with mosquito bites.
These are some of the steps you can take in the hours immediately after a bite. But remember, if you start feeling sick in the days ahead, particularly if you feel flu-like symptoms that include neck stiffness, headache, nausea and fever, then it’s possible that mosquito bite left you with something worse than just an itch. Go to the doctor. Period!
But Wait… Why Not Just Prevent Mosquito Bites?
The best way to treat a mosquito bite really is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Simple as it sounds, this can be a real challenge, especially during the summer or in warm climates.
Obviously, you’ll want to avoid the places where mosquitoes tend to congregate – which is anywhere near water.
If you don’t have to be around swamps, marshes, rivers, canals, lakes and ponds, then don’t. Otherwise, at least get clear of the water from dusk until a few hours after dark, when the bugs are out hunting for blood meals.
Unless you take certain precautions, you may also have to abandon your own backyard during the evening hours, so you’ll need to do some work on your environment:
- Get rid of any standing water around the yard because it will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Keep the grass and bushes trimmed so they don’t have resting places. Make sure all your windows have screens, and that they are in good shape, and consider screening in the back porch or deck.
- Install a mosquito control device, such as a mosquito trap that uses light, gas emissions and heat to emulate a mosquito’s human targets. The traps attract the mosquitoes, then kill them before they get to you. You can use these devices in conjunction with citronella candles that are reported to repel mosquitoes and subdued lighting or yellow outdoor bulbs that aren’t as likely to draw hungry insects.
- When you do go outside, try to keep as much of your skin covered as possible, and avoid bright colors that will attract the attention of mosquitoes. Use an insect repellent containing DEET on the bare areas.
- Dr. Greene also recommends vitamin B1 (25 to 50 milligrams three times a day) or garlic to produce a skin odor that is supposed to naturally repel mosquitoes. It takes about two weeks of regular doses for the B1 to become effective, he says.
The bottom line is, there’s just no way to guarantee that you’ll never feel the sting of a mosquito feeding on your blood. The occasional mosquito bite is inevitable, and that’s how it is. But there’s no reason you have to suffer.
Hopefully, you can use some of these tips to get a little relief when it happens.
Summer is arguably the best time of year—you know, other than the bug bites.
Something that makes them even more annoying? Those bug and mosquito bites are little allergic reactions brought on by insects. Think about it: Their symptoms (pain, itching, swelling) are all characteristic of a localized allergic reaction, says David Cutler, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.
(Keep in mind, however, that if a bug bite turns into an itchy rash all over your body, that’s a sign of a more generalized response by your immune system, which could require medical attention, says Dr. Cutler.)
But as far as those mild, localized, itchy bites go, hold off on a trip to the drugstore to find your anti-itch remedy—experts say these 12 natural ways to relieve bug bites can be just as effective as any over-the-counter treatments.
1. Tea tree oil
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This natural oil is capable of alleviating itching, pain, and swelling, according to dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD. Tea tree oil is also antibacterial, which can help prevent infection of the bug bite (which can happen if you scratch it so much, that you create an open wound!).
If you don’t mind a bit of stickiness, honey is an anti-inflammatory and can make the itching a little less tempting, says board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD.
4. Milk and water
This is Dr. Schultz’s favorite technique. Mix equal parts skim milk and water, dip a thin cloth (like a handkerchief or an old T-shirt) into the concoction, and dab your skin. You’ll find the protein from the milk super-soothing on the itchy bite location.
5. Lemon or lime juice
These fruit powerhouses provide itch relief and are antibacterial, says Dr. Schultz. But if you go this route, make sure you’re inside—these juices can burn your skin if you’re out in the sun, he says.
3. Lavender oil
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Dr. Schultz says dabbing a few drops of lavender oil to the itchy or painful bite can help dull the sensation—and help you resist touching and picking at it.
But, keep in mind: Oils from different brands may be more acidic than others, so make sure to dilute it with a drop or two of water first, says Dr. Schultz, which can help prevent any irritation from the oil.
“Most toothpastes have a mint or peppermint flavor, and the menthol ingredient creates a cooling sensation on your skin,” says Dr. Schultz. Your brain picks up on this feeling much quicker than the itching sensation. Plus, the astringent nature of toothpaste helps reduce swelling.
This spice isn’t just limited to the kitchen. Basil leaves contain chemicals such as camphor, which creates a cool feeling, similar to menthol in toothpaste, says Dr. Schultz. Crush a few leaves and apply the bits directly to your bumps.
9. Apple cider vinegar
This is a great home remedy to block itching because of its low acidic levels, says Dr. Schultz. Dab it onto individual spots or, if your body’s been a buffet for bugs, you can add two-to-three cups to warm water and soak in a tub. And apple cider vinegar may work even better, says Dr. Schultz.
6. Coconut oil
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Coconut oil’s benefits when it comes to bug bites are three-fold, says Dr. Schultz. Not only can the coconut oil soothe the itchy, red skin, but it can also protect the bite from any dust and dirt that might irritate it.
Coconut oil, like lavender, is also antibacterial, says Dr. Schultz, so it can help heal the bite as it protects and soothes it.
10. Ice or ice pack
A single ice cube can constrict the blood vessels and decrease the body’s natural histamine release, says Dr. Bowe. Translation: less itching. FYI: An ice pack will totally work here too.
11. Tea bags
Yep, cool tea bags draw fluid out of a bite to reduce itching and swelling, says Dr. Schultz. To do this, brew up a cup of tea, and when you’re done using the tea bag, let it cool for a few minutes then apply the bag to the bug bite. Will you look a little weird? Maybe—but it definitely beats itching and scratching.
Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength Ointment amazon.com $10.99 $7.28 (34% off)
Okay, yes, this one is technically a drug-store purchase, however, “cortisone is a chemical that the body makes and has natural anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. Cutler explains, making it a natural remedy. “Most people find that using small amounts of cortisone is effective” since it suppresses the body’s allergic response to help stop itching and swelling.
Kenny Thapoung Social Media Editor When I’m not stalking future-but-never-going-to-happen husbands on Facebook, you can catch me eating at one of NYC’s B-rated or below dining establishments—A-rated restaurants are for basics. Aryelle Siclait Assistant Editor Aryelle Siclait is an assistant editor at Women’s Health where she writes about relationship trends, sexual health, pop-culture news, food, and physical health for verticals across WomensHealthMag.com and the print magazine.
9 home remedies for mosquito bite itch
Following a notably mild winter, insects are worse this year than they have been in recent summers. More specifically, ticks and mosquitoes are out in force, making for a particularly uncomfortable summer for those who seem to attract the blood-sucking bugs.
The best method of dealing with mosquitos is to keep them from biting you in the first place by applying insect repellent before heading outdoors. But that’s not always possible, and it’s not always 100 percent effective. The mosquitoes around my house, for instance, aren’t remotely deterred by the insect repellent I coat myself in before I leave the house.
The second line of defense is having a reliable remedy to stop the itch before you scratch the bites into oblivion. Here are nine ways to stop mosquito bite itch with items you likely already have around the house.
- Rubbing just a dab of ammonia on the bite will provide almost instant itch relief. Ammonia is the active ingredient in one of the versions of the commercially available After Bite itch relief solution.
- Another version made for children, After Bite Kids, uses baking soda as its active ingredient. To whip up your own version, mix a small amount of water with baking soda to create a paste and apply topically to the bite.
- Rubbing an ice cube on the bite location can also provide temporary relief from the itch.
- Juice from a lemon or lime slice can also help calm the itch from a mosquito bite.
- While aspirin is typically taken as a pill, it also has medicinal uses when crushed up and applied topically. Crush the pill with a spoon and add water to create a paste, then apply to the bite.
- Aloe vera doesn’t just soothe sunburns. It can also relieve the itch and swelling from a mosquito bite.
- Unsurprisingly, peppermint-based toothpaste can also ease the itch of a mosquito bite. Squeeze a small amount out from the tube and dab it on the site of the bite.
- In addition to being delicious, honey can remove the itch from mosquito bites while also helping prevent infection.
- A variety of essential oils are said to ease the itch from mosquito bites. In my experience, peppermint oil is the most effective.
Get caught without your bug spray just once and the inevitable happens: red, angry, itchy mosquito bites that take nearly superhuman willpower to avoid scratching. So what’s a bug-bitten victim to do? Use the right methods that really work — no witch hazel or apple cider vinegar, please! — and sweet, sweet relief is within sight.
Why do mosquito bites itch so badly?
The urge to scratch those big, red bumps actually stems from an allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva, according to Dr. Rajani Katta, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Bellaire, Texas.
MORE ON MOSQUITOES
“The reaction is caused by salivary proteins introduced when adult female mosquitoes penetrate the skin,” she says. Only the females feed on your blood so they can produce eggs (thanks a lot, ladies). When one bites you, it also injects a little bit of saliva into the skin, triggering your immune system to respond.
Some people can have a more severe reaction to those proteins than others, explaining why an innocent outdoor BBQ may leave you covered in nasty red mosquito welts — yet your husband has just a few small dots.
What is the best treatment for mosquito bites?
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The number one weapon at your disposal is likely already in your medicine cabinet: “I usually go straight to 1% hydrocortisone cream used twice a day,” Dr. Katta says. “That has the benefit of calming both the inflammation — helping reduce the redness and the swelling — and the itching.”
Avoid using it on your face for more than a month, though. “Steroids cause thinning of the skin,” she explains, “so it makes you more susceptible to cuts and bruises, especially in fragile areas like your eyelids.”
If you’re out of Cortizone-10, applying calamine lotion or a paste made of baking soda and water can help, according to the Mayo Clinic. A cold compress or cool, moist cloth may also soothe angry bites.
You’ll want to skip common home remedies like witch hazel, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar, however. These popular “cures” can actually do more harm than good. “All three of those can irritate the skin, so they might increase inflammation and redness,” explains Katta.
What helps mosquito bites stop itching fast?
To get some relief ASAP, try tapping the irksome bumps. “There’s a particular nerve fiber that carries the message of itching to the brain, but you can distract it tapping or applying pressure,” Dr. Katta says.
Whatever you do, resist the urge to scratch. Open sores put you at a higher risk of infection, and could lead to long-lasting hyperpigmentation or worse, scarring.
How do you keep mosquitoes from biting you?
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Beat bugs before they bite by applying insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants. The Good Housekeeping Institute likes Sawyer Products Controlled-Release Insect Repellent Lotion, which protects against mosquitoes for up to 11 hours. Allethrin lamps and geraniol candles can also help de-bug the backyard.
Since mosquitoes can transmit disease, these extra precautions will help protect you from both uncomfortable itchiness and potential illnesses like Zika or West Nile virus.
Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at GoodHousekeeping.com covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.
When you have a ton of mosquito bites, it’s like you’re suddenly enrolled in a master class on willpower. You really want to scratch the bites, but giving in will only make the problem worse.
“Don’t scratch!” Cynthia Bailey, M.D., a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology and president and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology Inc., tells SELF. “This will lead to scabs, sores, and possible skin infections.”
It might feel easier to walk away from a million dollars than to not scratch, but try your best. Beyond that, what can you do after a bunch of mosquitoes have made a meal out of you? We consulted several dermatologists to figure out how to treat mosquito bites so you can relieve the itch ASAP.
When you get a mosquito bite, your body reacts with an immune response that leads to those signature pesky symptoms.
Mosquito bites cause that intense itchiness because they prompt your body to release histamine, a compound involved in your body’s immune response, Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF. Specifically, it’s the proteins in mosquitoes’ saliva that trigger your skin to get that itchy, red bump, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Scratching injures your skin further, causing even more of a histamine response that makes you itchier, Misha Rosenbach, M.D., associate professor of dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, tells SELF. That’s why scratching might make you sigh with relief for a moment, but the itchy sensation typically comes back with a vengeance.
While it’s possible to get a mosquito bite that’s merely annoying but clears up in a few days, you can also get something called skeeter syndrome, which is a more intense allergic reaction to the proteins in mosquito saliva, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s not life-threatening, thankfully, but it’s still terrible. Think of your typical mosquito bite on steroids: Instead of just an itchy bump, if you have skeeter syndrome you’ll deal with a much large area of swelling that may also be sore and redder than usual, along with possible fever, hives, and swollen lymph nodes. The older you get, the less likely you are to develop skeeter syndrome since you become desensitized to these proteins over time, the Mayo Clinic says.
Your options for dealing with mosquito-induced discomfort range from topical creams to cool compresses and more.
Everyone is different, but these remedies may be able to help you:
1. Slather on calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Calamine lotion is formulated to relieve itching and discomfort, and over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream helps reduce swelling, redness, and itching.
2. Use a cool compress. Apply an ice pack or cool, wet cloth to the bite, the Mayo Clinic says. The cold temperature causes the dilated blood vessels near the surface of your skin to narrow, limiting inflammation, Dr. Rosenbach says. Plus, it just feels soothing.
3. Moisturize regularly. When your skin is dry, it’s more prone to irritation and itchiness. It’s important to keep moisturizing when you have mosquito bites, Dr. Bailey says. To really help lock in moisture, try using a gentle cream or lotion when you get out of the bath or shower and your skin is still wet. For added relief and to help decrease inflammation, Dr. Goldenberg suggests putting your moisturizer in the fridge before you use it.
If you can’t avoid the bite, you can at least alleviate the itch with the help of these easy natural remedies.
If the maddening sonic hum of a mosquito circling your head at night isn’t enough to keep you up, then the subsequent itch of her blood-sucking frenzy probably will. While some people remain virtually unbitten, for those who act as a mosquito feast, the resulting bites can go beyond aggravating to uncomfortable welts and when over-scratched, broken skin and potential infection.
The best plan, of course, is to avoid being bitten in the first place; a task easier said that done given that you’re up against a tenacious insect hell-bent on survival. But if you end up an itchy mess, these natural remedies might help. Some comes from the archives of granny wisdom, some have some science to back them up. All of them are easy and can be achieved with things you potentially have at home.
1. Use an ice cube: Rubbing an ice cube on the bite can chill the spot and offer enough temporary relief to stop the scratch-cycle.
2. Raid the medicine cabinet: Try things with cooling properties like minty toothpaste or Vick’s – their anti-inflammatory goodness can help reduce pain, swelling, and itching.
3. Try essential oils: Also boasting anti-inflammatory properties, essential oils like peppermint, menthol, camphor, tea tree, eucalyptus, nutmeg, and thymol can go far to soothe the itch. (Only use products approved for use on skin and use sparingly.)
4. Dab with ammonia: While the thought of swabbing skin with ammonia might leave you squeamish, it is the active ingredient in products like After Bite, which Environmental Working Group gives a safe grade in their cosmetics database. Use just a tiny dab.
5. Hit the pantry: The wonder powder known as baking soda has long been a cure for all kinds of creature-meets-human ailments. Mix a small about with water to form a paste; apply and let it sit.
6. Try lemon juice: Easy, natural, and likely something you have on hand … a few drops of lemon juice offers relief for some people. Can’t hurt to try.
7. Apply aspirin: According to CNET, aspirin can be used by crushing it and applying it topically. They recommend crushing the pill with a spoon and adding water to create a paste, which can then be applied to the bite.
8. Call in the aloe: If your summer life or kitchen adventures require aloe vera for the soothing of burns, you can sneak a bit for mosquito bites as well.
9. Bring out the honey: This granny remedy is sworn to be effective by some; others say no. Regardless if it actually stops the itch or not, you’ll be less likely to scratch an area covered in sticky stuff.
Do you have other remedies that save you from scratching? Leave them in the comments.
The Dos and Don’ts of Mosquito Bites
It happened: you’ve just been bitten by a mosquito. Get ready for swelling, itching – and if you’re like some of us – about a dozen more bites to come. For many – the lucky ones – mosquito bites only result in a mild allergic reaction that goes away in a short period of time. But in some cases, a mosquito bite could lead to the onset of a more serious allergic reaction, or the contraction of a mosquito-borne illness such as Zika, West Nile or encephalitis.
Mosquito Bite Care
So what should you do if you’ve become a tasty morsel for the mosquitoes? Here are some basic dos and don’ts for dealing with mosquito bites:
- Wash the area: Any broken skin could lead to infection or more severe health consequences. Thoroughly washing the area with soap and water can prevent this from occurring. Oatmeal soap can clean the area and also provide some moisture and itch relief.
- Apply anti-itch cream: Applying calamine lotion or an anti-itch product can help to alleviate the discomfort. Hydrocortisone cream, for example, will work to reduce the inflammation around the area.
- Apply ice: Ice will reduce the swelling and alleviate the itching sensation.
- Take an antihistamine: Over-the-counter antihistamines can be effective in combating an allergic reaction resulting from a mosquito bite.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Scratch a Mosquito Bite
For most people, the first reaction is to scratch an itchy mosquito bite. But unfortunately, scratching will only provide temporary relief. What’s more, scratching will actually inflame the area and cause the itching to get worse. You may also increase your chances of infection. If you must do something – tap or slap the bite, which will momentarily pause the itchy feeling.
When to Seek Treatment for Mosquito Bites
A mosquito bite will usually go away in a day or two. However, if the redness, itching and swelling lingers, or you notice signs of infection, you should seek medical treatment. Other more severe symptoms that should not be ignored include fever, headaches and body aches.
What About Home Remedies for Treating Mosquito Bites?
There are many household items that can be used for treating mosquito bites. Here are a few home remedies you can try:
- Spoon: Believe it or not, many people find that applying a warm spoon to the affected area can alleviate the itch and discomfort.
- Onions: The juice from a fresh onion may provide relief — as long as you don’t mind shedding a few tears in the process! Of course, you’ll want to avoid applying this mosquito bite remedy anywhere near your eyes or nose.
- Preparation H: Phenylephrine, the active ingredient in Preparation H that reduces the swelling from hemorrhoids, can also do the same for mosquito bites.
- Lemon or Lime Juice: This antibacterial fluid will clean and provide some itch relief. Just be sure you’re not out in direct sunlight while applying citrus juice – as it will cause you to get sunburn more easily.
- Toothpaste: Some claim that applying toothpaste to the affected area will relieve the itch on contact.
- Baking soda: Baking soda is an alkaline-based product that can neutralize the pH in the skin. This can promote the bite healing process.
- Table salt: Salt offers antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that can provide mosquito bite relief. Combine the salt with a small amount of water to create a paste that can be applied to the affected area.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: You can apply vinegar directly to your spots or mix 2-3 cups into your bathwater. Definitely don’t apply this at the same time as baking soda.
- Basil: Break out the mortar and pestle and crush up some basil leaves. The oils in basil contain chemicals– such as camphor – which will create a cooling feeling when applied to the skin.
- Alcohol: Don’t go running for a gin and tonic, we’re talking about applying rubbing alcohol to clean the area! Although – did you know the gin and tonic was created in the early 19th century to combat and prevent the mosquito-borne illness Malaria? Quinine, the ingredient that fights malaria, was very bitter – so officers in the British East India Tea Company took to adding water, lime, sugar and gin to make the necessary medication more palatable.
Be careful when using any mosquito home remedy, as not everyone may have the same reaction. Always consult your doctor when trying new treatments.
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Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
Summer is the season of mosquitoes. And mosquito bites are truly the worst—not only are they huge and painful, they itch like nothing else. And once you start scratching, it’s hard to stop. You can blame female mosquitoes for the grief we all face come shorts season.
“It is the female mosquitoes that bite, and there is some saliva that enters the skin while the mosquito is feasting on its blood meal,” says Amy Kassouf, MD, dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “This is the protein that causes the allergic reaction—and itching.”
Basically, our immune systems see the protein as an enemy invader.
RELATED: 9 Bug Bites You Might Get This Summer–and What to Do About Them
“The proteins in the saliva are foreign and cause an immune system response,” says Dawn Davis, MD, dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “This causes irritation and the local reaction we see as the bug bite.”
Our bodies are just particularly sensitive to mosquito bites.
Other bugs bite may not have the same impact on your immune system, Dr. Kassouf explains. And, of course, stings bees and wasps are likely to produce more pain than itch.
RELATED: Everything You Must Know About Mosquitoes This Summer
Why do mosquito bites itch more when you scratch them?
Scratching a mosquito bite is a double-edged sword—it feels so good, but it also makes the itch way worse.
“When you scratch, you may release more local histamine—the chemical in the skin that causes the swelling and itching—and you may also be spreading the allergen under the skin,” says Dr. Kassouf.
If you tend to scratch until you bleed, you’re putting yourself at risk for skin infections.
“Scratching a bite opens up the skin, making it more painful or itchy and potentially causing bacterial infections (pyoderma or impetigo, even cellulitis!),” says Joaquin C. Brieva, MD, dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
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Why do mosquito bites itch more at night?
You’re not imagining it—mosquito bites do itch more at night.
“Most people itch more at night because our cortisol levels (our bodies’ own anti-inflammatory hormone) is higher in the morning, and also because we are less distracted as we wind down and try to fall asleep,” says Dr. Kassouf.
RELATED: What is Cortisol? Here’s How it Impacts Your Body When You’re Stressed
Why are some people more prone to get bit by mosquitoes?
You probably have that friend that gets eaten alive every time they are outside. There are a few reasons for why that may be.
Some people may be more prone to get bug bites based on several factors:
- your natural scent and components of sweat
- perfume or other scents
- the color of your clothing
- the time of day
- your location (because you’ll have more exposure in wooded areas and along landscaping)
And their blood type could be to blame. One study found that mosquitoes that were released in a controlled setting landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A, and people with Type B blood were landed on somewhere in the middle.
RELATED: A Florida Teen Is the First Human to Catch This Virus From a Mosquito
Why are some people bothered more by mosquito bites than others?
If you’ve ever wondered why do some mosquito bites itch more than others, it totally depends on your body.
“Everyone responds differently to mosquito bites,” says Edidiong Kaminska, MD, dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. While some people may have a minimal reaction, others may experience blisters and extreme swelling. But the most common reaction is simply red, itchy, swollen bumps.
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It just depends on your body’s immune system.
“Reactivity is based on the sensitivity of one’s immune system to the bite,” Dr. Davis explains.
But some people are prone to develop the big whoppers.
“People with so called atopic traits—eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis—tend to develop more severe local reactions after the mosquito bites,” says Dr. Brieva.
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Here’s The Best Way to Stop a Mosquito Bite From Itching
For many of us, mozzie bites are an unavoidable part of life if we want the luxury of having our balcony door open on a summer’s night or evening drinks on the harbour.
But apart from not scratching them at all – and come on now, let’s not get too crazy – what’s the most effective way of minimising the itch?
The key is in how our immune system responds to a mosquito bite in the first place.
When you’re bitten, a mosquito will use its sharp, tubular proboscis to deliver saliva that’s full of anticoagulants to the blood, which thins it out for quick and easy siphoning.
As researchers discovered back in 2012, these mouthparts are so small, they actually pierce individual blood cells and suck them dry.
The first ever time you get bitten by a mosquito in your life, you won’t feel a thing, because your immune system hasn’t had a chance to develop a coordinated response.
But once it does, it will know to deliver an unrelenting burst of histamines to the dried-up, shrunken blood cells, and these are what turns the bite wound into a red, swollen, and itchy disaster area.
This is one of those cases where your immune system ends up causing more harm than good, so the best solution to combat a histamine-related itch is to douse it in antihistamines, as Rebecca Harrington explains over at Business Insider:
“If the itch is too much to bear, apply an antihistamine cream or gel to the area, or take an antihistamine pill, recommends the US Food and Drug Administration. Look for “Diphenhydramine” in the ingredients list – Benadryl has it. Both the cream and the pills can be found over the counter and are pretty inexpensive.”
Those pills can even be taken as a precaution beforehand, to deal with the inflammation as soon as you are bitten.
While antihistamines are the most widely accepted treatment for mosquito bites, there have been questions over just how effective they are.
In 2012, a study published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin reviewed the available evidence for how over-the-counter treatments dealt with the itch of bug bites, and found “little direct evidence for the efficacy of treatments for simple insect bites, and, in general, recommendations for treatment are based on expert opinion and clinical experience.”
They added that with ointments containing antiseptics, antihistamines, or numbing agents such as lidocaine and benzocaine only appeared to help “sometimes”.
That said, “sometimes” is better than nothing, the researchers concluded, and having reviewed all available options, came to this recommendation:
“For mild local reactions, the area should be cleaned and a cold compress applied. Oral analgesics can be given for pain, and a mild corticosteroid cream applied to reduce inflammation and itching. Large local reactions can be treated with an oral antihistamine.
Non-sedating antihistamines are preferred during the day, but a sedating antihistamine can be of use at night if sleep is disturbed. Antibacterial treatment is not required for simple insect bites, but secondary infections should be treated with an oral antibacterial agent in accordance with local guidelines.”
And here’s some rather confronting footage of a mosquito’s flexible proboscis probing a blood cell. Know your enemy, I say.
A version of this article was first published in September 2015.
Mosquitoes have been much in the news lately because their bites can spread nasty diseases like the Zika virus, but regardless of whether mosquitoes are carrying a dangerous pathogen, their bites can be exasperating for a simple reason: They itch.
When a mosquito bites, it pierces your skin and draws blood with the tip of its strawlike mouth, or proboscis. In the process, the mosquito injects some of its own saliva, which contains an anticoagulant that prevents your blood from clotting around the proboscis and trapping the insect. (Only female mosquitoes, which need the nutrients from blood to produce eggs, bite.)
Your immune system recognizes the proteins in the mosquito’s saliva as a foreign substance and “mounts an immediate attack,” releasing histamine as part of the immune response, said Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida in Vero Beach.
“It’s the histamine reaction that causes the itching,” he said. “It’s just like the reaction when you get pollen in your eyes, and it causes local itching.” The histamine also causes your blood vessels to enlarge, creating the wheal, or swollen bump, around the bite.
But not everyone reacts to mosquitoes with an itchy wheal. Some adults have no reaction and may not even notice they’ve been bitten.
And over time, many people develop a tolerance to bites from mosquitoes, Dr. Day said. “Most adults are used to the mosquitoes around their home and don’t react as strongly as they did when they were kids,” he said. “But if they travel and encounter new species, they will get that severe reaction they had as a kid,” he said.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the main vector for the Zika virus, feed during the day, with peak biting activity in the early morning and late afternoon hours, Dr. Day said, but they may or may not cause an itchy reaction. “There is no link between a bite reaction and mosquito infection with Zika virus,” he said. Federal health officials urge pregnant women and others to prevent bites by wearing long sleeves and long pants, using an insect repellent (such as DEET), staying in screened areas and treating clothing with the insecticide permethrin.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito “can bite people without being noticed because it approaches from behind and bites on the ankles and elbows,” said Benjamin Haynes, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although active mainly during the day, “it can bite at night in well-lit areas” and prefers “to bite indoors, and primarily bite humans,” he said.
A small number of people will become increasingly sensitive to mosquito bites as they get older, and rare cases of dangerous allergic reactions have been reported.
Taking an over-the-counter antihistamine can reduce the itching, as can a strong topical cortisone ointment. Some evidence suggests that taking an allergy medication like Zyrtec before you are bitten may prevent a reaction, said Dr. Richard F. Lockey, director of the division of allergy and immunology at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.
The vast majority of people who are stung by a wasp will only experience minor symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching, and of course, the insane stinging sensation during and after the wasp sting. A small welt will generally appear around the sting with a white dot in the center. According to Dr. Taranath, some people may experience more pronounced symptoms, like extreme redness or swelling that increases for two or three days after the sting. However, what you really need to watch out for is the first several minutes after the bite. While most wasp stings can be treated at home, those with allergies to its venom may go into anaphylactic shock. “If you experience symptoms like severe swelling of the face, lips, or throat, lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, weak or racing pulse, or hives, seek immediate medical attention. Take an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl, if you have it available,” says Dr. Taranath. If you know that you have a wasp allergy, make sure to carry an EpiPen whenever you embark on outdoor escapades. For mild to moderate reactions, wash the affected area with soap and water and apply a cold pack to reduce swelling. If it was a bee sting, don’t forget to remove the stinger immediately with a pair of tweezers or your fingernails (wasps won’t leave a stinger behind).
Although most spiders in the U.S. are not venomous, some of them still bite and can leave behind a nasty reminder. According to Jesse Rehm, CEO of Triangle Pest Control, the best way to determine if you need to be worried about a spider bite is to have seen the spider that bit you. Brown recluses, black widows, tarantulas, or jumping spiders might require further medical attention. If you missed the spider, however, the symptoms can also help you determine your risk. Dr. Taranath shares, “Bites from harmless spiders often resemble any other bite – a red, swollen, sometimes itchy or painful bump on the skin. However, bites from dangerous spiders, like black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders, can cause severe pain, swelling, sweating, cramping, and chills and body aches.” If an itchy rash continues to worsen, you begin to feel pain around the area of the bite, or the bite begins to blister, you should see a doctor. Rehm urges that venomous spider bites will cause headaches, difficulty breathing, and fluctuating body temperatures, so if you suspect you have been bitten it is important to seek treatment within 24 hours of being bitten. Here are some ways to treat non-serious spider bites.
Ticks are small spider-like animals—better known as blood-sucking parasites—that bite in order to fasten themselves onto the skin and feed on blood. After initial contact, it takes between 24 to 48 hours of attachment for a tick to be able to transmit bacteria into your bloodstream. They can carry a number of harmful illnesses, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, Powassan, and most notably, Lyme disease. “The black-legged ticks that carry Lyme disease are most prevalent in Northeastern states, and this year has been one of the highest risk years in a long time due to an explosion in the tick population,” Rhem says. She advises that ticks are drawn to warm, moist areas on your skin, so if you spend a lot of time outdoors make sure to check waistbands and sock lines. Most people know to look for the traditional, telltale “bulls-eye,” a circular skin rash that usually appears around the bite. This is the most commonplace sign, but not everyone will experience that symptom. Other important warning signs to be aware of are muscle spasms, joint pain, fever, headache, and fatigue. If you’ve been bitten by a tick, visit a medical professional as soon as possible to get it safely and completely removed. Because different parts of the country have different risks when it comes to diseases transmitted by ticks, ask your doctor if further testing or treatment is needed in order to prevent chronic disease. Learn more about ticks here.
Most of us are all unfortunately very familiar with this one; its bite will produce a red, raised bump that itches furiously. While most people in the United States are familiar with the normal symptoms that come with a mosquito bite, that doesn’t mean these pests are entirely safe. Some individuals can experience more severe symptoms like small blisters or bruises due to an allergy to the mosquito saliva. Even worse, a mosquito bite can be more concerning for people will immune disorders. According to Rehm, “If a mosquito bite causes severe swelling, fever, hives, swollen lymph nodes, or headache, you should seek medical attention.” These bugs are common carriers of dangerous illnesses like Zika, malaria, or yellow fever, so take great caution in geographical areas known for these breakouts—particularly if you’ve traveled recently (it never hurts to be vigilant). And in any case, never itch. Dr. Taranath says, “You shouldn’t scratch bug bites for one primary reason: infection. If you scratch hard enough, you can break the skin. Our hands, and especially under our fingernails, are notorious for carrying germs and bacteria. When you scratch and break the skin, you increase the chances of those germs and bacteria getting into the skin and causing an infection.”