Mosquitoes can be a nuisance both indoors and outdoors. While males are harmless, feeding only on water and nectar, female mosquitoes need blood to survive. Blood from humans and mammals allows these insects to reproduce. As a result, the females of most mosquito species have proboscis, which is the tube-like mouth-part of the insect that pokes a host’s skin to draw out blood.
These bloodsucking flies can detect the presence of hosts by sensing the smell of sweat, chemicals, or carbon dioxide secretions from as far as 150 feet away. And when they bite, mosquitoes inject saliva into the skin. This in turn triggers an allergic reaction that leaves behind a red, itchy bump.
Mosquito Bite Symptoms
Mosquito bite symptoms vary from person to person. The intensity of irritation caused by these bites will depend on an individual’s level of sensitivity to insect bites. Most mild reactions to mosquito bites can exhibit one of the following symptoms:
- A puffy, white, and reddish welt accompanied by a pruritic sensation
- Reddish-brown, hard and itchy bumps appearing on the skin
- A scratchy rash that looks like tiny blisters
- Dark spots that resemble bruises
For some people, mosquito bites can trigger more severe reactions such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Large patches of red and inflamed skin on the bite site
Symptoms can appear within minutes after a mosquito bites or hours later in cases of delayed hypersensitivity. Children are more likely to develop severe reactions when bitten by mosquitoes. Irritation from these bites is less severe in adults, as most adults have already developed some level of immunity after numerous bites throughout the lives.
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
When mosquitoes pierce your skin to suck some blood for egg making, they inject you with saliva. This saliva contains a cocktail of anticoagulants and proteins, both of which help the mosquitoes to drink your blood without causing it to clot.
Once the female mosquito has had its fill, she flies away but leaves behind some of her saliva inside your skin. An immune system reaction then takes places, causing the body to produce antibodies that bind onto proteins in the mosquito’s saliva.
During this reaction, the body produces histamine, which is a nitrogenous compound known to trigger itchiness, inflammation, among other allergic reactions. Histamine makes blood vessels near the bite site to dilate (swell up). Consequently, you end up getting a pink, itchy bump called a wheal on the spot where you were bitten.
Mosquito bites can itch incessantly to the point where you can’t help but scratch for relief. However, by scratching, you’ll only make things worse. The reason for this is that scratching triggers the body to release more antibodies to get rid of the foreign protein, and this intensifies itchiness.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Mosquito Bites/Stop Itching
Although sensitivity levels vary, welts from a mosquito bite can last up to 5 days or even more if you catch an infection from scratching. Therefore, it’s better to prevent mosquito bites rather than suffering from them in the first place.
If you’ve already been bitten, there are fortunately many home remedies to get rid of mosquito bites and stop the itching. In fact, some of these treatments could already be lying around your kitchen or medicine cabinet.
The following are various effective home remedies and certain methods provide better relief than others. So, be prepared for some trial and error in order to find a remedy that works for you.
- Basil Leaves
Basil is a natural mosquito repellent. You can also use this plant to soothe irritation when these insects bite. Studies suggest that basil has chemical compounds like camphor and eugenol, which relieve itching on insect bites.
All you have to do is grind a few basil leaves and apply them directly on your irritated skin. Optionally, boil a few fresh sprigs of holy basil or some dried basil extract in water then dip a sponge into the solution and rub it on your mosquito bites.
- Mint Leaves
The smell of mint can be very refreshing but mosquitoes abhor it. This explains why peppermint oil is recommended to those in search of a natural mosquito repellent.
If you’re more interested in treating mosquito bites, mint leaves can also provide some relief. Simply rub a few crushed fresh mint leaves on the bite marks. The menthol content in these leaves causes a cooling effect on the skin, and your brain will pick up this sensation faster than the itchiness caused by a mosquito bite, thereby providing temporary relief.
Honey is a popular natural anti-itch remedy for insect bites, including those caused by mosquitoes. Its medicinal properties have been well document for many years too.
Due to honey’s antibacterial properties, it can prevent bites from catching an infection, especially when you scratch them. Honey also has anti-inflammatory active ingredients that relieve itchiness. A small dollop on an itchy mosquito bite can provide the relief you seek in just a short period of time.
- Aloe Vera
Although Aloe Vera is commonly used to heal minor burns and cuts, it can also ease itchiness caused by mosquito bites. The gel from this plant acts as a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent.
Simply split open the meaty portion of a fresh aloe vera leaf and rub the pulpy end on your mosquito bites. If you don’t have an aloe vera plant on hand, purchase some fresh aloe juice from your local herbal store.
The juice from aloe vera helps to reduce swelling and itchiness felt on welts caused by a mosquito bite. For even more relief, store your Aloe Vera plant or juice in the refrigerator for ten to fifteen minutes before application. The chilled juice/gel will provide an even more calming effect on the affected area.
- Essential Oils
Essential oils have always been helpful remedies for bug bites. For example, tea tree oil is a time-honored ingredient used in many skin products because of its therapeutic effects. Applying a few drops of this oil on your skin will reduce itchiness caused by mosquito bites.
An alternative to tea tree would be oil from lavender. It also acts an anti-itch reliever and reduces swelling on the affected area.
Besides applying both essential oils directly on the skin, you can also add a few drops to bathwater when treating all-over bites.
- Baking Soda and Water/Household Cleaner
Baking soda can work wonders on mosquito bites. A paste made by mixing baking soda with lukewarm water should reduce inflammation and eliminate itching quickly. It’s believed that the alkaline nature of baking soda changes the skin’s pH and neutralizes the bite site, hence providing relief.
Apart from using water, you can combine baking soda with a few drops of ammonia based liquid detergents to form a paste.
Regardless of the method used, apply the paste on the bug bite and let it stay on for about ten minutes before washing away. Repeat this treatment several times a day until the mosquito bites heal completely.
- Banana Peel
While it may sound strange, banana peels are a natural remedy for mosquito bites. A few studies suggest that the oils in a banana’s skin are responsible for this treatment’s calming effect on itchy bug bites.
Before applying this remedy, make sure that the bite site is clean. If necessary, use hand sanitizers or wash the treatment area with antiseptic soap or alcohol wipes before using this home remedy.
Place the inside part of the banana peel against the bite site for about 15 minutes and rub it occasionally. This should suppress the urge to scratch itchy mosquito bites.
- Lemon/Lime Juice
Fresh lime or lemon juice contains citric acid, which acts as an anti-inflammatory on mosquito rashes. This ingredient also contains antiseptic properties and will therefore keep infections at bay in case the bite site forms an open sore due to scratching.
To apply this remedy:
- Cut a lemon right in the middle and squeeze out the juice from one-half onto the affected area.
- Wait for 30 minutes for the active ingredients to penetrate your skin then rinse the treated area with water.
- Rubbing the lemon rind on mosquito bites will provide the same therapeutic results as well.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is slightly acidic. This allows it to neutralize spots of itchy red skin where the pH might be slightly off balance due to the foreign compounds that a mosquito injects you with after it has had a bite.
If you have bites all over the body, add 2 to 3 cups of apple cider vinegar in a bathtub of warm water and soak in this mixture for about 20-minutes.
When dealing with fewer sporadic bites, put a few drops of the vinegar on a piece of cotton ball and swab it on the affected areas. Leave the vinegar on for a few minutes before rinsing it off.
Both of these methods should reduce the urge to scratch welts caused by mosquito bites.
Oatmeal is commonly found in most household and it’s a mosquito bite remedy that you can get without visiting a drug store. This starchy food contains anti-irritant qualities that help to reduce itching and inflammation.
- Method 1
You can soak in an oatmeal bath when treating multiple bites in hard to reach spots. Simply add one cup of ground oats into your bath water and soak in it for about 20 minutes.
- Method 2
Another option is to make an oatmeal paste by mixing equal portions of water and ground oats. Smudge the paste on the irritated area to get fast relief for itchiness. Allow the oatmeal paste to dry and stay on the bite for 30 minutes to an hour before washing it off.
- Eggshell Membrane
The inner membrane inside a chicken’s eggshell can be a great treatment for mosquito bites.
- Simply peel the membrane off from a cracked egg and cover the bite site with the eggshell membrane.
- Let it stay in place for 15 to 30 minutes.
- When the membrane dries, it will remove the remnants of mosquito saliva, thereby reducing irritation and swelling.
- Tea Bags
Tea bags contain tannins, a natural astringent compound that absorbs fluids on swollen skin. As such, it will reduce inflammation and itchiness on mosquito bites.
- Place a used tea bag on the affected area and let it sit on the skin for several minutes.
- It may also be a good idea to store the used tea bags in the fridge prior to treatment. The cold temperature of the tea bags will soothe itchiness even more.
- Raw Potato
To alleviate irritation on mosquito bites without scratching, you can use a raw potato. Simply cut a potato in half and place the open side of one piece on the affected area. As the potato sap dries, it will stop the itching on your mosquito bite.
- Ice Pack or a Wet, Chilled Sponge
Cold temperatures help to reduce inflammation and numb nerve endings on the skin. Therefore, you can use an ice pack or chilled wet sponge to get immediate relief when suffering from itchy mosquito bites. Avoid leaving the ice pack on for too long as this can induce frost damage on your skin.
- Apply Heat
Heat can disperse histamines on the bite site and stop itching for hours. There are various ways to apply mild heat on mosquito bites without burning yourself. You can:
- Blow the bite with hot air from a dryer
- Press your bites against a towel and heating pad
- Heat the bites with a towel soaked in hot (not boiling) water
- Or place a moderately hot spoon on the affected area.
- Salty Water
Salt is well-known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Although it will sting a little at first, salt will keep infections at bay and reduce swelling on mosquito bites.
Ways to Use Salt on Mosquito Bites:
- You’ll need to mix the salt with water in order to apply it on your skin. An easier method is to fill an empty spray bottle with water and apply some of it on the bite site. Next, sprinkle salt on the mosquito bite and let it stay there for about 60 seconds before wiping the skin off with a washcloth.
- Alternatively, make a salt and vinegar paste then apply it directly on the affected area.
- If you live near a beach, taking a dip in salty seawater would be a great way to treat mosquito bites even on hard to reach spots.
- Alcohol and Witch Hazel Rub
Alcohol and witch hazel make a potent anti-inflammatory and antiseptic solution for treating bug bites. The cooling effect of alcohol will instantly stop itchiness. Alcohol also dries out insect bites, thus reducing inflammation. Witch hazel, on the other hand, will bring down swelling on the welts even further.
To prepare this concoction:
- Mix witch hazel oil with alcohol in equal proportions.
- Apply the mixture directly to the bitten area.
- Allow enough time for both ingredients to act then wash off with lukewarm water.
- Take a Warm Bath
You can sooth irritation caused by mosquito bites by taking a warm bath. Soaking in the bathtub for about 20 minutes offers an easy way to treat bites located on places that are out of reach such as your back.
The addition of essential oils, oatmeal, chickweed tea, or apple cider vinegar to the bathwater will help to alleviate itching even more.
- Meat Tenderizing Powder
Meat tenderizing powder mixed in equal parts of water can make a soothing paste for mosquito bites. Just apply the paste directly on your bites to get fast relief for itchiness.
The active ingredients that make this powder effective on insect bites are bromelain and papain. These enzymes act as natural anti-itch relievers and works quite well on mosquito bites.
Try applying peppermint toothpaste or mouthwash on the insect bite before going to bed. Menthol in the toothpaste or mouthwash will cool down the bites and make them less itchy.
For the best results, only use regular mint flavored toothpaste and avoid the gel-based or colored varieties.
While there are many mouthwash brands in the market, Listerine would be a good choice to soothe mosquito bites besides helping you maintain good oral health.
- Nail Polish
Clear nail polish seals the mosquito bite and works as a shield against infection. It can also provide temporary relief for itchiness.
- Simply apply a thin layer on an itchy welt.
- Let it dry and stay on for about five minutes then peel the nail polish off.
- You can leave the nail polish on the bite for a longer period or reapply after a short while as desired to sooth itchiness.
- Underarm Deodorant
While this may sound like an experimental treatment, underarm deodorant is an itch reliever for mosquito bites. Look for deodorants that contain aluminum chloride. This is the active ingredient responsible for stopping itchiness and swelling that is associated with mosquito bites.
Use the roller on mosquito bites as you would on your underarm. The deodorant’s effect should kick in within a few minutes.
- Baby Powder
Swelling on mosquito bites tends to intensify irritation. Appling baby powder on the bit area will dry out toxins in mosquito saliva, thus alleviating itchiness.
To try this remedy, you will need some baby powder, duct tape and some saran wrap:
- Apply a liberal amount of baby powder on the bite and cover it with saran wrap.
- Use the duct tape to hold the cover in place then leave it overnight.
- It takes about 3 days or less for the mosquito bite to heal when using this treatment.
- Tiger Balm/Vicks Vapor Rub
Tiger Balm and Vicks Vapor Rub are popular topical medications for aches and colds. However, they can also be applied externally on bug bites to erase itching and irritation. Keep in mind, though, that these ointments may cause serious discomfort on open skin. Therefore, avoid them if the bite site is already raw due to previous scratching.
- Relieve the Itchiness Manually
When a mosquito bites, you should avoid scratching the rashes with your nails. This can cause an open sore, which increases the risk of developing staph, strep, and other bacterial infections.
If you can’t help it, try the following mild rubbing techniques to get some relief for itchiness.
- Slapping or Pinching
It may sound ridiculous, but pinching or slapping a mosquito bite actually stops itching temporarily. The brain is programmed to register one feeling at a time. So, the tender pain from pinching or slapping will mask the more irritating itchiness on the mosquito bite.
- Sting The Bite With A Rubber Band
Pull a rubber band back and snap it on the bite. This should numb the nerves and stop itchiness for a short while. Although this isn’t a permanent fix, this method may be worth trying when you want to distract yourself from irritating mosquito bites. However, make sure not to snap the rubber band with too much force as this can end up hurting you even more.
- Scotch Tape
The sticky chemicals on scotch tape can remove the toxins that cause mosquito bites to itch. Just sanitize the irritated area with alcohol or ammonia then tape it. Remove the tape after a few hours. Leaving the scotch tape on the bite for several hours will make itchiness subside almost entirely.
- Draw Around The Welt With A Ballpoint Pen
Instead to scratching vigorously, drawing around the mosquito bite with a ballpoint pen reduces the risk of breaking your skin open. This in turn reduces risk of infection due to excessive scratching. Some people find that this method works great to relieve itchiness on mosquito bites.
OTC (Over-the-Counter) Treatments for Mosquito Bites
- Calamine Lotion And Other Anti-Itch Creams
Calamine lotion is an anti-itch concoction of ferric oxide and zinc oxide. Doctors use it to treat itching caused by insect bites and stings. As such, you can use calamine lotion to soothe irritation on mosquito bites. Alternatively, buy an OTC anti- pruritic cream such as 1%-hydrocortisone, triamcinolone or corticosteroid creams.
If you’re not sure what anti-itch cream would be the best choice, your pharmacist should be able to offer a recommendation based on your specific symptoms.
- Antihistamine Pills
Oral antihistamines are more effective at relieving the itching and swelling that accompanies mosquito bites than topical applications. In most cases, your doctor will prescribe these drugs if you or your child suffers an intense allergic reaction due to mosquito bites.
From least to most sedating, oral antihistamines that treat mosquito bites include Fexofenadine (Allegra), Loratadine (Claritin), Cetrizine (Zyrtec) and Benadryl.
- Aspirin Paste
Aspirin contains salicylic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory ingredient. As such, it can reduce swelling on mosquito bites. Simply crush one pill and add a few drops of water then apply the paste directly on the bite site.
If you’re allergic to aspirin, avoid using it as this might exacerbate irritation on the mosquito bites.
While OTC (over-the-counter) drugs for mosquito bites do not require a doctor’s prescription, they may not be appropriate for everyone. Always read the label instructions and warnings carefully before using any non-prescription drug that claims to treat mosquito bites.
Ways to Prevent Mosquito Bites
Mosquito bites tend to clear up with time and you don’t have to endure itchiness while they last thanks to the home remedies and OTC drugs mentioned above. However, the fact that mosquitoes are vectors of many diseases is even more reason why you should prevent them from biting you and anyone in your home in the first place.
While passing from host to host, some mosquito species transmit life-threatening diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, the west Nile virus, and filariasis. Therefore, you should take measures to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Here are a few tips to put an end or at lease minimize the mosquito bites:
- Eliminate Breeding Places For Mosquitoes Around Your Home Compound
Mosquitoes breed on standing water. In fact, these insects live off entirely on water during the first three stages of their development. Therefore, get rid of all sources of stagnant water around your home to reduce the mosquito population.
Fire pits, flowerpots, buckets, pet dishes, and other objects that hold rainwater should be periodically emptied. You can also reduce stagnant water around your home by unclogging roof gutters, not leaving old tires lying around the yard, overturning unused containers, changing water in birdbaths frequently, and clearing wading pools at least once a week.
If there are small ponds in your yard, stock them with fish so they can eat the mosquito larvae.
- Keep Your Yard and Garden Well-Maintained
Trimming the vegetation and grass around your home will also reduce hiding places for mosquitoes.
- Avoid Being Outside When Mosquitoes Are Most Active
Peak hours for these insects are usually at dusk and dawn. If you must be outside during this time, then use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET, eucalyptus, Picaridin, or oil of lemon. These repellents will make your skin unappealing to mosquitoes.
Alternatively, try not to expose your skin too much by wearing clothing that completely covers your body. Put on floor length pants, long sleeves, socks, closed toe shoes, a scarf, hat, or anything that helps you cover up as much as possible.
You should also choose an outfit that’s lightly colored, as mosquitoes find such hues to be unattractive. Spraying your clothes with mosquito repellent will also add another layer of protection.
- Keep Mosquitoes Out Of Your Home
Seal crevices and holes on door and window screens so that mosquitoes have no way of entering your home.
- Repel Any Mosquitoes That Sneak Into Your Home
You can do this by lighting citronella candles or camphor at night or spraying the house with essential oils from plants such as lemongrass, eucalyptus, mint, lavender, rosemary, holy basil, lemon, and marigold.
Burning some pinion wood or planting red cedar mulch around the house will also help to keep annoying mosquitoes out of your home.
- Other Miscellaneous Methods
- Avoid putting on too much perfume as strong scents tend to attract mosquitoes.
- Another way to prevent mosquito bites is to sleep under a treated mosquito net.
- Taking a daily dose of vitamin B1 can also make you an undesirable target for mosquitoes. According to research, scientists suggest that this vitamin makes the human scent less attractive to mosquitoes.
When to See a Doctor
Sometimes OTC drugs might not work when mosquito bites trigger a severe allergic reaction. If you notice that the itching doesn’t stop and the sores are not healing, consult your doctor for a more potent treatment.
It’s also advisable to set an appointment with your general practitioner when mosquito bites are accompanied by other severe symptoms such as fever, body aches, nausea, and headaches.