Here s The Best Way to Stop a Mosquito Bite From Itching
Here’s The Best Way to Stop a Mosquito Bite From Itching
- 1 Here’s The Best Way to Stop a Mosquito Bite From Itching
- 2 The 7 Best Ways to Get Rid of Mosquitoes
- 3 How to Get Rid of Mosquitos
- 4 11 Ways to Get Rid of Mosquito Bites and Beat That Annoying Itch
- 5 Here’s Exactly How to Treat Those Mosquito Bites All Over Your Body
- 6 What Happens When a Mosquito Bite Gets Infected (And What to Do)
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.
The 7 Best Ways to Get Rid of Mosquitoes
Hate mosquitoes? Hate mosquitoe bites more? Join the club. Deal with these annoying insects with everything from DIY bug spray to garlic water.
As the saying goes, «If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.» These pesky creatures are the bane of our skin’s existence, but there are plenty of methods you can use to effectively repel them when the need arises.
How to Get Rid of Mosquitos
- DIY Bug Spray
- Another DIY Bug Spray
- Lemon Eucalyptus
- Rosemary and Sage
- Egg Cartons and Coffee Trays
- Garlic Water
Let’s dive further into each.
1. DIY Bug Spray
Use this (almost) all-natural insect spray to repel mosquitoes as well as other insects like flies. Chop one small onion and one head of garlic. Mix together with four cups of water, four teaspoons of cayenne pepper, and one tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Spray around your deck and in places where your children play (rather than on the children themselves). This mixture will last a week or so if stored in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and kept in a dark, cool place.
2. Another DIY Bug Spray
If you’re uncomfortable with all of the unpronounceable ingredients in commercial bug sprays, try making this natural version. Mix together a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar, a quarter cup of witch hazel, and around 20 drops of a combination of any the following essential oils: rosemary, citronella, tea tree, cedar, eucalyptus, or lemongrass. Transfer the mixture to a spray bottle, and shake before each use. Spray directly on exposed skin and the bugs will stay away!
3. Lemon Eucalyptus
When shopping for a natural mosquito repellent, look for one that contains oil of lemon eucalyptus. It’s extremely effective and provides long-lasting protection.
Looking for an effective, yet natural way to combat mosquitoes? Try peppermint! Combine a few drops of peppermint essential oil with one cup of water in a spray bottle, shake well, and spray onto skin. Not only will the chemical compounds in peppermint help repel the blood-sucking beasts, but you’ll also smell minty fresh!
5. Rosemary and Sage
Do mosquitoes hover over the grill when you barbecue? Next time, place a few springs of rosemary or sage on top of the coals. They’ll repel mosquitoes, leaving your meat in peace.
6. Egg Cartons and Coffee Trays
Mosquitoes are a pain each summer, but you don’t have to buy citronella candles, mosquito coils, or the latest gadget—you can just use cardboard egg cartons and coffee trays (the kind you get when you order more than a couple of coffees to-go). Light them on fire, then blow them out and let them smolder in a fire-safe location. The burning smell they produce is pleasant, but keeps mosquitoes away.
7. Garlic Water
Citronella candles are great for repelling insects, but they can be pricey. Get the same effect for much cheaper by mixing garlic with water and spraying it near all your outdoor light bulbs. As the bulbs heat up, they’re spread a faint garlicky scent across your yard, which will keep mosquitoes and other bugs away.
Find more helpful tips on our Bug and Pest Natural Remedies board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for our Tip of the Day!
11 Ways to Get Rid of Mosquito Bites and Beat That Annoying Itch
Resist the urge to scratch and follow these tips instead.
Nothing says summer like beach trips, burgers on the grill — and mosquito bites.
When these pests «bite,» a little bit of their saliva is deposited into your skin. Proteins in mosquito saliva spark a mild allergic reaction from your immune system, which leads to inflammation and itching, according to New York-based medical and cosmetic dermatologist Sapna Westley, M.D.
You’re probably tempted to scratch your mosquito bites, but scratching that itch can actually make you itchier. When you scratch, your immune system releases compounds that create even more swelling and itching, Westley says.
Not to mention the germs lurking under your fingernails could cause a gross bacterial infection.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure to get rid of mosquito bites, but the good news is they typically heal on their own after a few days.
In the meantime, you can make them more bearable with these eight easy remedies for mosquito bites.
The bubblegum-colored lotion, made of zinc oxide, is your first line of defense for mildly itchy mosquito bites.
The lotion creates a cooling sensation that temporarily relieves itching and discomfort, says Westley. That means once the lotion wears off (usually after a couple of hours), you’ll probably start to itch again.
You can use it on its own if it’s enough to make you comfortable, but you can also combine it with other treatments, like hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines.
How to use it: Apply a thin layer over the affected area and reapply as needed. Available as an over-the-counter medication at most drugstores.
If calamine lotion doesn’t help, try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment or cream that contains 1 percent hydrocortisone, Westley recommends.
They contain corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, redness, and swelling — which ease itching.
If an OTC cream isn’t getting the job done, your doctor can prescribe a stronger prescription cream.
How to use it: Apply a thin layer over the affected area up to twice a day, or as prescribed by your doctor. Just don’t go crazy: Overuse of hydrocortisone cream can actually make your skin more irritated and lead to discoloration.
“If you’re itchy in between applications, you can use calamine lotion,” Westley says.
Taking an oral antihistamine (like Benadryl) can give all-over relief by calming your body’s response to histamines, the compounds that cause all that itching.
“They’re especially good for when you’re having trouble sleeping, since they make you drowsy,” says Westley.
If you want to take antihistamines during the day, look for a non-drowsy formula designed to be taken during the day, like Claritin or Zyrtec.
How to use them: Follow the dosing amount on the product label or your doctor’s instructions.
Taking more won’t relieve your symptoms faster, and could put you at risk for side effects like nausea or vomiting, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, and even seizures.
“The cold is vasoconstricting, so it reduces the amount of blood flowing to the bite area to reduce swelling and itching,” Westley says.
Like calamine lotion, you can use it to get extra relief in between other treatments such as hydrocortisone cream, she says.
How to use it: Fill a zip-top bag with ice, wrap the bag in a kitchen towel or cloth, and apply to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes.
Repeat as needed, up to once an hour.
Like ice, a tea bag soaked in cold water will reduce blood flow to the surface of your skin to take down swelling and ease itchiness.
Depending on the variety, tea may also contain compounds called tannins, which helps reduce swelling.
Westley recommends using black tea, since it contains the most tannins.
How to use it: Dunk a tea bag in very cold water until the bag is fully soaked through.
Gently squeeze the tea bag to remove excess liquid, and apply to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat as needed.
Oatmeal contains calming properties that moisturize skin and lower pH level to soothe irritation and reduce itching, says Westley.
How to use it: Try this on its own, or while you’re waiting for your antihistamine to kick in.
Finely grind one cup of rolled oatmeal in a blender or food processor to make a flour-like powder, and sprinkle in a lukewarm bath. (Grinding the oats makes it easier for the calming compounds to penetrate your skin.)
Or, get a premade option at the drugstore, like Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment.
Soak in the bath for 10 minutes.
Since Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory, your go-to for headaches could also help relieve some of the swelling in your bug bite.
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Allure that the best way to use this common home drug is by making a paste and applying it topically.
How to use it: Crush up an Aspirin and dissolve with a little bit of water to turn into paste. Apply topically to bite.
It may be better known for soothing your skin when it’s had too much sun, but this plant can help with bug bites, too. Aloe vera works because it has anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal minor wounds.
Purchase pure aloe vera gel or squeeze the gel directly from the plant. Store your gel in the fridge as the cold temperature can help with itchiness.
How to use it: Cut open the plant and apply the gel directly to your bite. Repeat as needed.
This compound is a topical anesthetic, which means it numbs the sensation of the bite and may provide temporary relief. It’s common in lotions, creams, and sprays labeled as “anti-itch” products. When you feel an itch in your skin, it’s transmitted to the spinal cord, which takes the signal to your brain. A local anesthetic, of course, helps stop that whole communication pathway.
How to use it: Apply over the itchy area as directed on the package. Many products containing pramoxine also contain other calming ingredients, so look before you layer products to be sure you’re not overdoing any individual compounds.
These come in many forms—even your sore muscle relief cream or spray could be put to use here, if it contains some kind of menthol (that’s the stuff that creates that tingly feeling after it’s applied). The cooling sensation it provides can combat the itch.
Instead of buying an additional product, you could just keep other products you’re using for the mosquito bite itching in the refrigerator. “The same nerves that transmit itch also transmit temperature,” says Shawn Kwatra, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Sometimes a cold temperature can confuse the nerves that send the itch sensation to the brain and block the signal.
How to use it: Apply menthol creams as directed; generally for an area as small as a mosquito bite, you’ll just want to dab them onto the affected spots. You can go overboard with these, so read package directions.
Here’s Exactly How to Treat Those Mosquito Bites All Over Your Body
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.
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.
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.
What Happens When a Mosquito Bite Gets Infected (And What to Do)
“Stop scratching!” That’s good advice, of course. But sometimes it’s easier said than done.
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Seemingly blissful summer evenings happen. Sitting outside, without a care. No mosquito spray, citronella candles, long sleeves or pants — big oops! So what do you do the next day (or even day after) when the welt(s) from the unintended mosquito fest seem out of control?
Cleveland Clinic family nurse practitioner Allison Folger, CNP, says mosquito bites are simply a nuisance for many but explains they can get infected if you don’t leave them be.
“Scratching the bite to the point of bleeding can open the door for a bacterial skin infection to develop,” Folger explains. “This commonly occurs in children whose nails are understandably dirty from playing outside, though it also happens in adults.”
The infection’s not the mosquito’s fault!
The infection, called cellulitis, is from bacteria that enters the punctured skin from your hands. Warning signs include:
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- A wide-spreading redness around the mosquito bite
- Red streaking that extends beyond the initial bite
- Pus or drainage
- Area feels warm to the touch
- Fever (above 100 F)
“If you or a child has these signs of infection, it is important to see your doctor,” Folger says. One easy way to tell if the bite is spreading? Take a pen and draw an outline around the mosquito bite. That’s a fool-proof, objective way to keep an eye on it.
If your doctor confirms it’s cellulitis, you’ll need a round of antibiotics to kill the bacteria (typically strep (streptococcus) or staph (staphylococcus).
How to treat it in the meantime?
If you’ve got a mandarin orange-sized welt that you’re worried about, here’s the best way to treat it: Folger recommends cleaning the bite with soap and water, and then applying an over-the-counter hydrocortizone cream. This will help reduce the swelling and itching.
If desired, this can be followed with calamine lotion, which contains a mild topical anesthetic that may ease the discomfort.
“Use ice packs on the area to help bring the inflammation down, and reapply the topical medication every four hours,” she recommends.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend using an oral antihistamine (such as Benadryl®), as they’re more effective at providing relief than topical creams.
Infected or just a itchy aggravation? You’ll probably be fine soon with proper care either way, Folger says. And getting bitten so badly may just remind you to take an ounce of prevention next time.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy