As the weather warms up, we know that we can begin to expect to see more and more mosquitos and consequently, suffer from those annoying, raised and ever-so-itchy bites.
Why Do They Bite?
First, let’s begin by understanding why they bite. Have you heard before that only female mosquitos bite? It’s true! They do so because the females need the nutrients found in blood to produce their eggs. The mosquito’s mouth has a straw-like shape with a sharp tip. They locate a blood vessel and draw up the blood while injecting a small amount of saliva containing an anticoagulant to keep the blood from clotting.
Your body recognizes the salvia as a foreign substance and triggers a response from your immune system. Your body then produces a hormone called histamine which triggers increased blood flow and white blood cells to send to the affected area. This is what causes the inflammation and swelling. The histamine is also what causes the itch, due to signals sent to the surrounding nerves. Every person’s degree of reaction to a mosquito bite is different. However, read on to learn a few home remedies that may help the symptoms.
Helpful Home Remedies – Want to try something more natural to help the symptoms? Try these ideas.
- Ice – Cold temperatures help reduce inflammation and can help temporarily numb the skin. The Mayo Clinic recommends a cold pack or a cold cloth to get short-term, but immediate relief.
- Witch Hazel – A natural astringent, witch hazel contains tannins which are beneficial for a number of skin ailments from minor cuts and scrapes to insect bites. Witch hazel reduces inflammation and can help soothe the irritation and itch caused by the mosquito bite. Try allying a small amount to a cotton ball and gently dab it over the bite. Allow to air dry and repeat as needed.
- Honey – This delicious, sweet substance is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used for centuries for ailments like sore throats, bruises and more. A drop of honey on a bite can help reduce inflammation.
- Oatmeal – Already known for its benefits for irritated or dry skin, oatmeal has compounds that contain anti-irritants. Try making a thick paste of oatmeal and water in a small bowl. Spoon some of the paste on the bite and cover with a washcloth and leave for around 10 minutes before wiping clean. You can also enjoy an oatmeal bath. Add 1 cup of ground oatmeal to a nice warm bath. Soak for around 20 minutes and try to gently massage bites with clumps of oatmeal throughout the bath.
- Aloe Vera – Another very common remedy for a plethora of skin concerns is aloe vera. The gel of this common houseplant has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Try cutting open a leaf of the plant and squeezing the gel onto the bite. Store the leaf in the refrigerator for later use.
- Basil – A fragrant and delicious addition to many recipes, studies also suggest that a chemical compound called eugenol may help to relieve itchy skin. Try finely chopping fresh basil and applying to the bites. Or try boiling 2 cups of water and adding half an ounce of dried basil leaves. Allow the mixture to cool completely before dipping a washcloth into the liquid and rubbing gently on the bites.
- Thyme – This delicious herb has been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Try finely mincing fresh thyme leaves and applying them directly to the bite. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before gently wiping off.
- Onion – The juices in a fresh onion can help to reduce the irritation and sting from a bite. Onions also contain natural antifungal properties that can lower the risk of infection. Try laying a fresh slice of onion on the bite and leaving for several minutes before removing and washing the area well.
- Chamomile Tea – Known for its calming and soothing properties, when applied to skin, this tea can reduce surface inflammation and ease irritation. Try steeping a bag of chamomile tea in cool water in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Squeeze water from the tea bag and apply directly to the mosquito bite for about 10 minutes. You can chill the bag back in the cool water in the refrigerator and use it for subsequent applications.
- Vinegar – Also acting as an astringent, vinegar can help reduce stinging and burning sensations from bites and also acts as a natural disinfectant. Try dabbing a drop of vinegar on the bite. You can also try soaking a washcloth in a mix of cold water and vinegar and applying to the bite.
While most of us have itchy, raised inflamed irritation with mosquito bites, some may experience allergic reactions. Anyone experiencing the following symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible:
- Difficulty breathing
- Hives or swelling
- High fever
- Swollen joints
If your bite lasts longer than a week, causes significant discomfort or becomes more severe, speak to your doctor. It is possible for a mosquito bite to become infected and your doctor will know how to best treat it.
Remember that prevention should always be the first goal. Try the following recommendations:
- Cover exposed skin as much as possible
- Try using mosquito netting
- Use insect repellant
- Wash frequently (sweat has been shown to attract mosquitos)
While most bites are just an annoyance, some mosquitoes can carry disease and viruses. Avoiding getting bitten should always be your first line of defense. Avoiding all bites may be impossible, especially during the summertime, however, following a few of the above recommendations, you may be able to reduce your risk of those pesky bites from the start. Typically, the bite will heal within a few days. Avoid scratching the bite, which can prolong healing. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns over a bite or the way it is healing.
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Written By: S. Campbell for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC.