How to Treat Mosquito Bites

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on February 06, 2021

You know the drill. You’re enjoying a lovely evening outside. Then you hear that high-pitched whine and feel the sting of a mosquito bite.

Something in the insect’s spit causes the small itchy welt. It’ll get better within a few hours for most people. But if you’re highly sensitive, symptoms can last for several days. That little spot can turn into an itchy sore the size of a quarter.

Don’t Scratch

It’s tough advice, but leave the bite alone. When you scratch, it creates openings in your skin that allow bacteria in and cause infection.

To relieve the itch and lower your chances of an infection:

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply calamine lotion or anti-itch cream.
  • Put an ice pack on the bite.
  • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine.

If a bite causes fever, vomiting, or shortness of breath, call 911 or get to an emergency room immediately.

Can You Avoid A Bite?

Yes. Take these steps:

  • Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, and in the early evening.
  • Wear long pants and long sleeves when you go outdoors.
  • Apply bug spray with DEET or picaridin to all exposed skin.
  • Get rid of standing water where mosquitoes breed.
  • Use screens on windows and doors to keep the bugs out.
WebMD Medical Reference



CDC: "What You Need to Know About Mosquito Repellent."

European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation: "Mosquito bite allergies: Don’t scratch!"

Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station: "FAQ's on Mosquitoes."

The Ohio State University Extension: "Mosquito Bites."

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