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Mosquito Bites: Treatment and Prevention Tips

How to treat and prevent mosquito bites.

How to treat and prevent mosquito bites.

That lady mosquito that descended on your arm or leg for a taste was very attracted to you—to your heat, perspiration, body odor, and even carbon dioxide emissions. She landed on your skin with just one goal: a meal. To that end, she stuck her sharp, thin proboscis (or mouthpart) into your skin and began sucking your blood. Her saliva contained proteins, digestive enzymes, and anticoagulants (which prevent your blood from clotting). Once she finished gathering her nourishment, the mosquito departed (or met a deadly end via a palm or fly swatter).

It takes her just a few seconds to do her job, and now you are left with a bit of an unwelcome gift. Some saliva remains in the wound, and the proteins swimming around within it provoke an immune response from your body. Your body's responses to the mosquito's saliva in your bloodstream include the signature redness, swelling, and bump and are what make your mosquito bite itch so much. The swelling will usually go away before the itch; the bump only remains until your immune cells break down and remove the foreign agent from your bloodstream. But as long as that itch exists, you'll never forget about that little winged lady who sucked your blood.

Identifying Mosquito Bites

Picture of mosquito bite

Picture of mosquito bite

Sometimes you don't see what it was that snacked on you, so you may feel inclined to get a little nervous. However, a mosquito bite is recognizable by the pale halo that forms around the dot-like bite, called a "wheal." Different people's bodies take different amounts of time to react to the mosquito bite. The reaction usually occurs anywhere from moments to 24 hours after the bite.

Mosquito Bites - A Quick Bit of Science

Picture of mosquito bites

Picture of mosquito bites

Interestingly enough, the first time a mosquito bites, there is no reaction. As you attract more mosquitoes and more bites over time, your body begins to react to the proteins and enzymes, and the red bumps start to appear within a day. After enough bites, your body will react within minutes.

Eventually, some people become immune to bites, and show no reaction when bit. In contrast, others may develop a mosquito bite allergy and exhibit more severe reactions to the bites, such as blistering, bruising, extreme swelling, and prolonged itching. The latter must, unfortunately, deal with this allergy by avoiding bites as much as possible.

Scientists have even discovered that specific cells in the mosquito's "nose" identify the chemicals which make up the human odor; to the mosquito, some people just smell better and appeal more to mosquitoes. An extra whiff of carbon monoxide or a little extra perspiration and the mosquito is ready to target you specifically—even in a crowd. That explains why at a picnic or at a backyard barbecue, there's always one person who seems to be the main course in the mosquito bite buffet while others are not even bothered by a single pest. The old joke about being extra "sweet" to the taste of that mosquito is actually true.

Some technologies such as mosquito traps by Mega-Catch actually exploit this natural identification system by confusing the mosquitoes' sense of smell, luring them away from human prey and into the traps.

Watch a Mosquito Bite & Feed

Treating the Mosquito Bite

Mosquito bite treatment starts with cleaning the area and addressing the reaction as soon as you realize you've been bitten. A simple mild soap and warm water wash is the first place to start; afterward, pat dry with a soft towel and resist the urge to rub. Scratching and rubbing will prolong the mosquito bite itch instead of offering (temporary) relief. You also run the risk of introducing dirt and bacteria into the open area and developing an infection.

If the urge to scratch is too overwhelming, there are several mosquito bite remedies that you may already have in your medicine cabinet or pantry. Try one of the fixes below:

Baking Soda

Ingredients:

  • Baking soda
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Mix two parts baking soda to one part water until it reaches the consistency of a sticky paste.
  2. Apply the paste directly onto the bite and wait for it to dry.

As it dries, it will alleviate the sting and bring some relief to the itching and swelling. This is a great treatment for those with sensitive skin and for small children because the ingredients are mild and won't cause irritation. Just wash it off after the urge to scratch has gone away (remember to pat dry instead of using a rubbing motion) and reapply if the symptoms flare up again.

Ice or a Cold Can of Soda

This is a great quick fix, particularly if you're out of the house and unable to reach a first aid kit or get to the kitchen. Use an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel to ease the mosquito bite's swelling. A cold can of soda or bottled water will also work.

Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera gel is nature's gift for treating mosquito bites. The coolness eases symptoms and forms a protective layer after application that reduces the risk of infection. Reapplication will be necessary. It's good to do another soap and water wash every few hours.

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Topical Creams

From the medicine cabinet, the following can relieve itching:

  • Calamine lotion
  • A topical anesthetic containing pramoxine
  • One-percent-hydrocortisone cream

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

If topical creams don't take care of the symptoms immediately, try taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen. It will help to reduce the swelling of the bites. For more severe cases, an antihistamine such as Benadryl will also help, but check with your doctor before administering the medication for this reason.

Cautions

If the mosquito bite does not respond to topical treatments and the skin around the area becomes warm, red and swollen, the bite may be infected. Call a medical practitioner in this case; a stronger treatment may be necessary.

Unfortunately, beyond the irritation of bites, mosquitoes can also carry disease. West Nile and encephalitis are two mosquito-borne diseases that have been reported in the United States. If you begin to experience headaches, fever, vomiting, chills, or muscle aches, you may have contracted something more than a bump from that mosquito bite. Contact your physician immediately if any of these symptoms develop.

Preventing Mosquito Bites

Though there are ample remedies for mosquito bites, the best thing you can do is protect yourself from them in the first place. Wear long-sleeved, lightweight shirts when gardening or spending time outside. Whenever you're outside for a long time, apply a safe repellent and reapply it after awhile, as the chemicals will wear off.

If you suffer from a serious reaction to mosquito bites or have a compromised immune system, try to stay away from places where mosquitoes clearly congregate to ensure that you won't become that mosquito's next meal!

More Mosquito Information

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Taylor on August 04, 2016:

Can mesquitos just go extinct!?! LITERALLY and flys!!

Austin Seever on August 03, 2016:

This is the second time this has happened but I have 5 mosquito bites on one hand and ive had them for a few days now...none of these have helped I think a hospital treatment is in order

Melody on August 02, 2016:

I was at a bonfire one summer evening. I'd been wearing jeans and a light sweater that night, but I didn't think about my feet and had some sandals on. Both of my feet were covered in bites, and the itching was insane. The only thing that worked for me was Sarna, an anti-itch lotion you usually find by the Cortizone and the rest of the itch relief products. It comes in a pump bottle. It's over $10, but it worked so well when Cortizone just wouldn't cut it because of the amount of bites.

Batman on September 06, 2014:

I have been to the ER 4 times because of mosquitoes first my calf then my eye then my right arm and now my left elbow and my left thigh

I HATE MOSQUITOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ron on September 04, 2014:

Bitten by 100s 50 years ago in army

Every year rash and large sores return. Swelling in legs and other areas. Been to derms and to no avil. No one has ever done blood work. Does not travel outside must be in bblood to carry it, all comes from inside. Byopsys show nothing.

..

crystal on April 08, 2014:

I woke up yesterday morning just itching my skin once I itch the spot it shows up like a mosquito bite but I was not bitten by one now everywhere my skin itches it does that I am going crazy!! My skin looks normal till I scratch it plz help me I did go to the beach the day before but its not sea lice I don't think

meagen on October 31, 2012:

I found tea tree oil works

Dave on August 23, 2012:

I find wetting an aspirin with water and rubbing it on the bite helps

Johnathan on July 23, 2012:

Shuttle Lotion is the best stuff for bites i cant live with out it

Chrissy on July 17, 2012:

I'm going to try the lemon juice. It sounds like the most easiest... I have like sooooo many bug bites! soooo itchy! thanks 4 da help!

Lauren on July 02, 2012:

I go a bite on my face.... It looks terrible and the baking soda helped the itch but not the redness I just want the redness to go away!!!!

robby on June 20, 2012:

I just got bitten by this damn creatures 2 days ago, there area around 40 bites each on top of my feet, had tried not to scratch n the itchy reduce but every time i walked the itchy strikes back. I went to dermatologist this morning and he gave me antihistamint, it works well. Red bumps still shows but believe me the most craziest things is to hold on from 80 points of itchy feelings and it has gone. The medicine name fexofenadine HCl, but better go to the doctor

Dennis on June 08, 2012:

Okay so I have like 10,000 misquito bites everywhere on my legs on my arm on my neck on my ear and on my face and they are all red and bumpy but there is one line of red misquito bites on my right arm.I live in pa and I bmx and I am always sore I don't have headaches or any thing like that but I am very scared because of my right arm.........Please help

jackie on May 24, 2012:

I was told to desolve Benedril pills in a small amount of water, making it like a paste. You then touch each bite with the paste, allow it to dry and you should have some relief from the itching. It did help me. Good Luck Everyone. It is miserable.

Hope on May 17, 2012:

I found out the only thing that helped me with my mosquito bites was putting vinegar on them. The only thing is that the vinegar left brown spots in my skin and after a year the spots are still there.