Attracted to their victims by sight, scent or heat, the female mosquito is out for blood. Like the males, female mosquitoes could survive just fine on nectar, but the proteins and iron they get from drinking blood is necessary for reproduction. And after at least a hundred million years of existence, they’ve gotten very good at it.
Technically, mosquitoes do not bite. Injecting a sharp, thin proboscis coated with an anesthetic that may allow their presence to go unnoticed, they draw blood until disturbed, full or perhaps squashed. Once they have moved on, the site becomes irritated by the anticoagulant saliva, causing all-too-familiar swelling, redness and the dreaded itch.
No matter how careful we are about applying insect repellents, these bloodthirsty pests catch up with us eventually. If “bitten,” the first step is to wash the affected site and make certain the proboscis is not still present. After that, everyone seems to have a different method for relieving the pain and itch of this unwelcome badge of summer.
Here are 12 common (and less common) methods for dealing with mosquito bites. Some seem contradictory and others a little goofy, but the logic is sound. Whatever works. What is your strategy for dealing with mosquito bites?
- Apply Ice Why it Works: Ice helps in two ways. Like taking an antihistamine, ice reduces swelling and has the added benefit of numbing the nerves sending “itchy” signals to the brain.
- Apply Heat Why it Works: Holding a hot compress or running hot water over the affected area will overload the nerves in the same way ice does and also opens the pores to allow the itch-causing toxins easier escape. Best used in conjunction with an antihistamine or other treatment that will reduce swelling.
- Baking Soda Why it Works: When mixed with a little water and applied as a paste, this household alkaline can help neutralize the pH balance in the bite, providing itch relief.
- Toothpaste Why it Works: A dab of toothpaste on the bite will act as an astringent, drawing itchy venom from the wound as it dries. Menthol in the toothpaste will also provide a “cooling” sensation that will occupy the nerves in the same way ice does, relieving discomfort.
- Deodorant Why it Works: Aluminum chloride in bar deodorant will draw moisture (and toxins) from the bite.
- Wet Tea Bag Why it Works: Another astringent, the tannins in a moist black or green tea bag soothe quickly.
- Garlic Why it Works: A natural antibiotic, fresh garlic rubbed on a mosquito bite is said to knock out the bacteria causing itchiness. Evidence is inconclusive, but some swear by this method.
- Vinegar Why it Works: Malic acid in apple cider vinegar is a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory, able to soothe painful bites.
- Honey Why it Works: Another natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory, honey is a quick pain reliever.
- Fresh Basil Why it works: Rubbed on the affected area, natural camphor increases blood flow around the bite and breaks down itchy anti-clotting agents in mosquito saliva.
- Aloe Why it works: Gel found inside aloe vera plants applied to insect bites acts as an effective antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and disinfectant.
- Take an Antihistamine Why it works: Reduces swelling, relieving pain and allowing itchy, blood-clotting mosquito saliva to depart the wound. The novelty factor may be low, but it’s tried and true.
Originally: 12 Mosquito Bite Remedies