When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors in summer, mosquito bites seem to be an unavoidable evil. While bees and wasps inject venom when they sting, mosquitoes simply bite to feed on your blood. The bumps and itchiness that follow come from an anticoagulant that the mosquito injects to prevent your blood from clotting, which triggers a mild allergic reaction that includes the typical round, red bumps.
Although it rarely happens, mosquito bites can trigger a severe anaphylactic reaction or transmit certain diseases, like malaria or West Nile virus. Most of the time, however, mosquito bites simply itch.
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 Everyday Health skin and beauty expert Jessica Wu, a dermatologist in Los Angeles and author of Feed Your Face. 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 additional creative ways to cope with bug bites, we asked Everyday Health Facebook fans for their out-of-the-medicine cabinet ideas (honey! aloe! batteries?!), then vetted them with Dr. Wu. Try one next time mosquitoes strike.
When The Bugs Bite
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 Everyday Health skin and beauty expert Jessica Wu, MD, a dermatologist in Los Angeles and author of Feed Your Face. The cold helps <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-and-beauty/why-does-my-skin-itch.aspx" target="_blank">soothe the itch</a> and compounds in the tea help with inflammation.” Another option: Take a soak in a soothing oatmeal bath.
A Little Honey, Honey
“[I use] honey because it has antiseptic ingredient.” — Atm Shahidul Hoque Dr. Wu says: “Honey has an <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/webcasts/antibiotics-and-antibacterials-how-much-is-too-much.aspx" target="_blank">antibacterial ingredient,</a> so theoretically it could help prevent a bite from getting infected. But the sweetness could attract more bites!”
“[I use] Scotch tape.” — Tammy Mah Ung Dr. Wu says: “Putting Scotch 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.”
“Rub the bite with banana peel.” — Nancy Clark Dr. Wu says: “I’m not sure about this one. Bananas are fragrant, so they’re likely to attract bees and mosquitoes.”
Ever-Popular Aloe Vera
“Aloe vera will draw the sting out.” — Tonya Jenkins Dr. Wu says: “<a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/aloe-vera-topical" target="_blank">Aloe vera</a> 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.”
Relief That Keeps Going and Going...
“My husband learned this in the military and taught it to me: For spider, bee, wasp, and ant bites, take a 9-volt battery, and wet the [bitten] area a little bit. Put battery to the bitten area, and it will stop the action of poison and stop the hurt. I used it for a spider bite today.” — Brenda Gann Dr. Wu says: “The military guys have it right. Electric current has been shown to inactivate snake venom. And wetting the battery enhances the conductivity so more current goes through your skin. So it may also help venom from other bugs. However, mosquitoes don’t inject venom, so it wouldn’t help there.”
“I [mix water and] meat tenderizer into a paste.” — Natacha Harvey Dr. Wu says: “Meat tenderizer contains papain, which helps break down protein. Venoms are made of protein, so theoretically it could help break down venom from <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-center/allergies-to-insect-stings.aspx" target="_blank">insect stings,</a> although this hasn’t been proven. And it wouldn’t help relieve mosquito bites since they don’t inject venom.”
Try Preparation H
“<a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/preparation-h-hydrocortisone" target="_blank">Preparation H</a> 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 Relief
“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 “<a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-center/hand-sanitizers-definition.aspx" target="_blank">Hand sanitizers</a> 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.”
“I make a paste with baking soda and apply it to the bite. The baking soda draws out the junk from the bug! It works really well.” — Heather Pinchbeck “I rub a little dab of toothpaste on insect bites. [It] takes the itch out! My aunt taught me this about 40 years ago!” — Debbie Cavaliere Jenkins Dr. Wu says: “Baking soda dries into a paste, which dries out the skin, but you can’t draw out the [anticoagulating] saliva that the mosquito injects. The same goes for toothpaste. It has a drying effect but won’t soothe a bite.”
“Lemon or lime rubbed on the bite.” — Robbi Cynkus Dr. Wu says: “I’d be worried that this would be fragrant to the bugs, which could attract them.”
X Marks The Spot
“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 I rub a basil leaf on my mosquito bites, and it stops itching. I wish I had known this when my daughter was little because I am amazed 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.”
“Fingernail polish! Clear is best, but if it itches enough, any colour will do.” — Kerry Johnston Dr. Wu says: “I don’t recommend this. Some people are allergic to ingredients in polish. Even if they’re not allergic to it on their <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-and-beauty/beauty/maintaining-healthy-nails.aspx" target="_blank">fingernails,</a> it could cause a reaction when applied to skin.”
Try An Aspirin Paste
“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 <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/salicylic-acid-topical" target="_blank">salicylic acid,</a> which is anti-inflammatory. It doesn’t hurt to try.”
A Swish Of Listerine
“I use regular Listerine for itchy bug bites.” — Brenda Black Dr. Wu says: “It has menthol, which cools the skin to help relieve itch.”
My Big Fat Bottle Of Windex
“[I use] Windex!” — Karla House Dr. Wu says: “There’s nothing in Windex that would relieve itching or swelling, so this only works if you’re a cast member of 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding.'”
“Cut a potato and rub it on the bite.” — Barbara Bowling Dr. Wu says: “I don’t see why rubbing a potato would work at relieving mosquito bites.”
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