How to Treat Mosquito Bites

A quick guide to soothing and treating bug bites

Mosquitoes are a top threat in the summer months, and we’ve discussed how to prevent them, the best bug sprays and even natural repellents. But let’s face it. You are probably going to get bit at least once this summer. So what do you do when that itchy little red bump pops up?

I chatted with allergist, Dr. Clifford Bassett and Dr. Jorge Parada, medical advisor National Pest Management Association (NPMA) to discuss first aid for bug bites.

It’s good to note that when you first notice the bite, wash it with soap and water to reduce infection, especially after scratching it. Then apply a cold compress to reduce itching.

Related: Are Mosquitoes More Attracted to You?

Reducing that itch is key, as the main issue with creating infection, is scratching. That is why in treating bug bites, the main priority is preventing the itch. Dr. Jorge Parada explains where the itch comes from, “The itch is due to histamine release in our body in response to the mosquito's saliva which is injected while they're drinking our blood. Histamine is one of the main drivers in allergic and inflammatory reactions and causes swelling, redness and itching. So, scratching only stirs up the saliva and increases the histamine response.”

But, sometimes, it’s hard to stop the itch on your own. So here are a few suggestions and remedies for curbing those nails.

1. Topical steroid creams. Some of the best remedies include antihistamines and anti-inflammatories such as Benadryl, NSAIDS and steroids. Apply these to the bite area to sooth and stop the reaction.

2. Ice compresses. Applying a cold compress to the affected area can reduce swelling and prevent itching.

3. Therapik. Dr. Bassett suggests considering a Therapik, a handheld mosquito bite reliever, to reduce pain and itch after a bite.

4. Over-the-counter 1 percent hydro-cortisone cream. Dr. Parada suggests this cream for larger, more intense itchy reactions.

There are instances where you may need to seek immediate medical attention. For instance, if you have an allergic reaction to a bite, you could be in serious danger, and need to get to an urgent care facility to get a prescription for an epinephrine autoinjector immediately. Also, if you are finding that the reaction is developing a rash or infection, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.  

Both doctors agree that the first step is using insect repellent wisely. Prevent the bite first. But, if you see a bite, don’t stress, and do your best not to itch.

Click here for 8 myths about bug repellent… debunked.