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Are you so sweet that mosquitoes can't stop biting you? These reader-recommended and expert-approved remedies can help ease the itch.
When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, mosquito bites seem to be an unavoidable evil, especially in warm, humid weather. While bees and wasps inject venom when they sting, mosquitoes inject a proboscis, which looks like a tiny straw, to suck up tiny amounts of your blood and release anti-clotting agents. The immune system reacts by releasing histamine, which creates a small, itchy bump. In other words, what you know to be a mosquito bite is not the bite itself, but your body’s allergic reaction to substances that bite leaves behind.
While home fixes for mosquito bites allow you to avoid toxic pesticides, mosquito bites can be risky, too. Children are more susceptible to large and pesky mosquito bites than adults, and while most bites are harmless, some people have a severe, even life-threatening allergic reaction.
If you’re in or planning to travel to a tropical area, it’s important to know that mosquito bites also can carry diseases, like Zika, dengue, or chikungunya. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information on preventive measures you can take before traveling.
The best way to prevent mosquito bites naturally is to avoid the bugs themselves and know your own risk. Mosquitoes seem to be especially attracted to larger people and pregnant women. They are also attracted to sweet-smelling lotions and perfumes.
Know that some mosquito breeds prefer dawn and dusk, while others love the hottest times of the day. Steer clear of standing water, where mosquitoes breed and swarm, and cover up and wear light-colored long sleeves and pants when you’re near an infested area. If you can, try to sleep in an air-conditioned area (versus an open-air room), or consider putting mosquito netting around beds.
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For immediate relief, try an antihistamine cream or stick to help the itch and swelling. Don’t have any in stock? Hit the kitchen, and hold a refrigerated, dampened green tea bag on the bite, recommends skin and beauty expert Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "The cold helps soothe the itch, and compounds in the tea help with inflammation.” Another option: Take a soak in a soothing oatmeal bath.
For more creative ways to cope with bug bites, we asked Everyday Health Facebook fans for their out-of-the-medicine cabinet ideas, then vetted them with Dr. Wu. Try one next time mosquitoes strike.
Pure Green Tea, $3.49, Thrivemarket.com
Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal, $6.99, Thrivemarket.com
“[I use] honey because it has an antiseptic ingredient.” — Atm Shahidul Hoque
Dr. Wu says: “Honey has an antibacterial ingredient, so theoretically it could help prevent a bite from getting infected. But the sweetness could attract more bites!”
Organic Honey Bear, $4.29, Thrivemarket.com
“[I use] Scotch tape.” — Tammy Mah Ung
Dr. Wu says: “Putting tape (or a bandage) on the bite will help remind you not to scratch, especially at night. If you scratch too hard, you could break the skin and introduce an infection.”
Tender Tape, $4.99, Thrivemarket.com
“Aloe vera will draw the sting out.” — Tonya Jenkins
Dr. Wu says: “Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties, so this could help the itch. For even more relief, stash your aloe vera gel in the fridge, since the cold will also help with the itchiness.”
Pure Aloe Vera Gel, $5.69, Thrivemarket.com
“Preparation H takes care of swelling and itching.” — Patricia McKinney
Dr. Wu says: “This topical treatment can help reduce inflammation and may help with itching.”
“Rubbing alcohol takes the itch away and the bite, too.” — Lori Carley
“[I use] rubbing alcohol (and also witch hazel and tea tree oil). If it burns, I just tell my boys that the alcohol is killing the ‘bug poison!’” — Kit Bowden Powers
“Hand sanitizers work pretty well, and you don't need a lot.” — Robin Kirk Heizyk
Dr. Wu says: “Rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, and tea tree oil have antiseptic properties, so they could help prevent bites from getting infected. And their stinging sensation helps distract you from the itch. Hand sanitizers with alcohol will act in the same way.”
Witch Hazel Astringent, $7.99, Thrivemarket.com
Organic Tea Tree Essential Oil, $10.89, Thrivemarket.com
“A good remedy of my grandma's was putting an X in the middle of the bite [with your fingernails]. It always seemed to work.” — Sherri Jeffries
Dr. Wu says: “Pressing down on a bite — and causing some pain — helps distract from the itching. But don’t press too hard, since breaking the skin could lead to infection."
“I just learned that if I rub a basil leaf on my mosquito bites, it stops itching. I wish I had known this when my daughter was little because I am amazed how much this works.” — Debora Ann Miller
Dr. Wu says: “Basil has been shown to repel mosquitoes. It does have anti-inflammatory properties, which could help the swelling.”
“For stings, I use crushed aspirin mixed with a smidge of water to make a paste that I dab right on. It takes the sting right away.” — Kris Ruff Brock
Dr. Wu says: “Aspirin contains acetyl salicylic acid, which is anti-inflammatory. It doesn’t hurt to try.”
“I use regular Listerine for itchy bug bites.” — Brenda Black
Dr. Wu says: “It has menthol, which cools the skin to help relieve itch.”
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