As you sit there scratching that mosquito bite, don’t we all wonder why mosquitos exist? Their constant buzzing is annoying, bites are painful and itchy, and sometimes they can even spread deadly diseases. Fortunately, some home remedies for mosquito bites and natural mosquito repellents prevent those annoying insects from biting you in the first place.
Mosquito Bite Symptoms
If you’ve never had a mosquito bite before – lucky you! While doctors and healthcare providers can recognize them pretty easily, sometimes they can appear different from what you may expect.
Most often, the signs of a mosquito bite appear a few minutes after the bite. However, it can sometimes take up to a day or more after the mosquito bite for it to be visible. Mosquito saliva has certain proteins which cause a reaction in our body, most commonly resulting in a red or white puffy bump raised above the surrounding skin. They can sometimes look like small blisters or even dark spots, almost like a tiny bruise. These areas can hurt and are often extremely itchy.
When To See a Healthcare Provider
There are also some other symptoms to watch out for; after all, mosquitos are a vector for transmitting diseases. This means they may bite an infected animal to feed on their blood and pick up a virus or infection without knowing it. Then when the infected mosquito bites you and deposits its saliva into your body, it transmits the disease to you. For this reason, mosquito bites are how diseases like West Nile virus, dengue fever, malaria, and encephalitis are transmitted. You should seek medical care for further evaluation if you have symptoms that seem out of proportion to a normal mosquito bite, like:
- Large areas of swelling or redness
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Body aches
Mosquito bites are notoriously painful and very itchy. If you are the type of person that can’t stop scratching, you may end up causing a secondary bacterial infection on or near the mosquito bite. The bite didn’t cause the infection, but constant scratching can tear open your protective layer of skin, allowing outside bacteria to enter, which can cause infection. For this reason, it’s important to avoid excessive scratching and seek professional help if you think an infection has set in – symptoms of this would include large areas of swelling or redness and warmth. One way to tell if the redness is spreading is to outline the area of redness with a pen. This way, when you look at it later, you can tell if the redness has expanded beyond your outline.
Home Remedies for Mosquito Bites
Those mosquitos shouldn’t suck all the fun out of your outdoor activities. Fortunately, some quick and easy home remedies for mosquito bites are available.
You can use an ice pack from the freezer or even a clean dishcloth soaked with ice cold water. Hold the cold compress on the area for 10 minutes to help reduce swelling and calm the need to scratch. You can reapply the cold compress as needed to manage your symptoms.
Baking Soda and Water
Try mixing one tablespoon of baking soda with enough water to create a paste. Then, apply the paste to the mosquito bite for 10 minutes to help reduce any itchiness. Wash off the paste after the time is up – repeat this several times per day as needed for symptom relief.
If you have some calamine lotion or non prescription steroid cream like hydrocortisone, you can apply one of these several times a day until your symptoms go away. If itching persists despite topical treatments, common over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton may help stop the scratch.
All-Natural Mosquito Repellants
Preventing mosquito bites in the first place is the best option to prevent unwanted discomfort and the potential for mosquito-transmitted diseases.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered mosquito repellents proven to be safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding people. Only one of them, para-menthane-diol (PMD), is naturally occurring and is found in things like the oil of lemon eucalyptus, citronella, rose oil, and geranium oil. Studies investigating the use of oil of lemon eucalyptus, citronella, or these botanical oils by themselves have all been criticised for a short duration of effectiveness. These oils have an overall improved safety profile compared to synthetic insect repellants like DEET. However, they evaporate quickly, meaning very frequent reapplication is required.
- The PMD compound is chemically isolated in the lab and added into products like:
- Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Lotion
- Survivor Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
- Off! Botanical Insect Repellent
These products have comparable effectiveness to the gold-standard, and synthetic insect repellent, DEET. However, children younger than three should avoid PMD compounds since they haven’t been tested in this age group.
A general guideline for how to use insect repellants is as follows:
- Spray repellents should be applied outside, away from food
- Only apply a thin layer to exposed areas of skin and do not apply to areas covered by clothing
- Avoid contact with eyes, mouth, irritated skin, or cuts. To apply repellant to the face, spray some into your hands and carefully apply to areas of the face rather than spraying your face directly
- If you’re also using sunscreen, apply that first, and then apply the repellent over top
- Always read the product label instructions and reapply as directed
- “A natural mosquito repellant’s most active form” via Chemical & Engineering News
- “What Happens When A Mosquito Bite Gets Infected” via Cleveland Clinic
- “Prevent Tick and Mosquito Bites” via CDC
- “Prevent Mosquito Bites” via CDC
- “Mosquito bites” via MayoClinic
- “Essential Oils and Health” via Yale Journal of Biology & Medicine (PubMed)
- “Prevention of arthropod and insect bites: Repellents and other measures” via UpToDate