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How to Treat Mosquito Bites

Medically 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.
  • Use screens on windows and doors to keep the bugs out.

Lower the mosquito population in your yard by getting rid of standing water where they lay their eggs and breed.

  • At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, trashcans, and other cans.
  • Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out.
  • Remove discarded tires and other items that could collect water.
  • Check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.

Note: Vitamin B and "ultrasonic" devices are NOT effective in preventing mosquito bites.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

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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