Chewed Up by Mosquitoes? Tackle Itchy Bites with These Tips

Woman scratching, itchy mosquito, bites, armsnamtipStudio / Shutterstock

It's hard to resist the scratches of mosquitoes, but it only makes them worse. Here's how to end that itchy feeling to resist the urge to scratch.

During the summer, most of us spend more time on the outside, which can be both exciting and a little appalling, especially for those who seem to be attracting a disturbing amount of mosquitoes. Although generally safe for our health outside mosquito-borne disease areas, mosquito bites can still be extremely boring and uncomfortable.

Intense scratching, the most common reaction to a bite, only worsens the situation and can lengthen healing times, but it's incredibly hard to ignore. Fortunately, there are simple ways to calm the itching and make your life less miserable. If you want to learn some tips to make mosquito bites less irritating, this article is for you.

What happens when a mosquito stings you?

Mosquitoes are attracted by a combination of heat, carbon dioxide that we exhale and chemical markers released into our sweat (they can even indicate your blood type – they prefer type O). When mosquitoes bite you, they do not just puncture a hole in your skin, but cover it with saliva. Their saliva contains anticoagulants and proteins, foreign bodies that trigger an immune response. Part of this response is the production of histamine, which causes itching in the affected area. The bite usually stays visible on the skin for a few hours, although it depends on its size as well as the state of your immune system. Sometimes a bite can cause a minor allergic reaction called "skeeter syndrome" (formally, papular urticaria). This results in an increase in swollen area, fever and hives.

Naturally, you want to scratch the stinging bite, but the more you do it, the more you damage your skin and the more intense the immune response becomes. More histamine is released and the bite only makes itching. Scratch, damage, protect, itch and scratch. It's a vicious circle that can only be broken with a little self-control and some tips to calm the symptoms.

How to stop itching

Whether you want to take the natural route or let chemistry act, there are several clever ways to reduce the nuisance of mosquito bites. Here are a few.

Clean the bite with rubbing alcohol

If you manage to catch up with the author as soon as he evacuates the area, wipe it off with a little bit of alcohol to burn. The rapid evaporation of alcohol has a refreshing effect that can help relieve itching and prevent any infection from scratching with dirty hands. However, avoid abusing it because too much rubbing alcohol can cause skin irritation and aggravate it.

Apply the topical cream

A woman distributes a topical cream from a bottlepuhhha / Shutterstock

If you are prone to frequent bites, it may be wise to keep topical cream on hand. The calamine lotion, for example, helps relieve the seemingly eternal itchy feeling of a bite. A mild corticosteroid cream has a similar effect as it reduces inflammation and redness of the skin. However, it should not be applied on open wounds or your face. It should also be used infrequently, as prolonged use can cause thinning of the skin, acne and excessive hair growth. Hydrocortisone cream is another option that can prove useful if you are trying to reduce the swelling of a big bite and soothe the affected area.

Cool the bite

When medications are not available, an easy way to reduce inflammation is to apply something cold to the bite. Use a cold compress, ice pack or even a damp cloth to get the dilated blood vessels near the skin surface to shrink and minimize redness. The cooling sensation on the skin will also have a calming effect and will reduce the itching.

Moisturize frequently

Dry skin is more easily irritated and irritating. When you add a mosquito bite to the equation, the situation gets even worse. The itchiness intensifies and the instinct to scratch becomes almost impossible to avoid. Take the habit of properly moisturizing your skin after the shower, even if you already have bites to the body. Keep your moisturizer in the fridge for a while before applying it to cool your skin and relieve itching.

Make good use of oatmeal

You can use oatmeal to treat various itchy skin. It is a useful and inexpensive remedy against mosquito bites. Make a paste using equal parts of oats and water, and then apply it directly to the affected area. You can also put the dough on a washcloth and hold it against the bite for about 10 minutes. If you have multiple bites, try taking an oat bath. Add a cup of oatmeal to a tray of warm water and let it soak for 20 minutes. When you go out, your skin should feel relieved and look less red than when you entered it. Then apply a sufficient amount of moisturizer.

Use cold tea bags

Drink tea? Save your tea bags! You may have heard of the use of fresh tea bags to treat puffy eyes, but they can also help fight insect bites. Infuse several tea bags for a few minutes, take out the excess water, put them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then apply them on the affected area. The cool temperature of the bag helps, just like in the case of black tea, the tannins in the tea. The tannins are astringent and should help reduce swelling and itching.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has many advantages, especially for its effectiveness in the treatment of skin conditions. Similar to tea, this plant contains anti-inflammatory agents that make it an ideal remedy against mosquito bites. An aloe vera gel can provide relief and reduce swelling, especially if stored in the refrigerator for at least half an hour before application. The gel can be bought in a pharmacy or pressed directly from the plant on the skin. If you have sensitive skin and are prone to bites, you may want to consider getting an aloe vera.

Take an antihistamine

Finally, you can attack the problem from the inside. Antihistamines alleviate the immune response to mosquito bites by lowering the number of histamines in the body. This option is especially helpful when a skeeter syndrome is triggered as it is difficult to manage the symptoms with natural remedies. Oral antihistamines are effective between 4 and 6 hours in the short term (with Benadryl or similar) and up to 24 hours in the long term (with loratadine, cetirizine or the like). As most people find Benadryl sedative, you may prefer to take a general-purpose allergy pill, such as loratadine, to avoid excessive sleepiness. Talk to your doctor to find out which antihistamines work best with your lifestyle and any medications you have.

Mosquito bites are inevitable if you spend time outside in a hot climate. When they bite, it is good to refrain from scratching, even though it may seem almost impossible. However, if you try some of the tips mentioned above, the itching will eventually subside and you can devote yourself to the day without causing further damage to your skin.

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