Is there anything that actually works for huge, ugly, swelling, allergic mosquito bites?
August 2, 2011 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Is there anything that actually works for huge, ugly, swelling, allergic mosquito bites?

My whole life I have been pretty damn allergic to mosquito bites. Never to the point of hives or anything serious or life-threatening - just itchiness with huge swelling. Other people say they are 'super allergic' when they get a bit of a red patch...I currently have a bit on my arm and it's surrounded by a swollen red patch about 4 inches in diameter.

It doesn't cause any serious troubles in my life, but it's annoying and damaging to my vanity. The only thing that helps is taking Benadryl - but it only works if I take it before the swelling has started and then consistently over the next few days, and it puts me in a druggy sleepy haze. I end up letting them swell so I have the mental capacity to go to work without snoozing on my desk.

I've tried Claritin and it had no effect. Benadryl cream made it feel better but had no effect on swelling. I try to wear repellant but sometimes I forget!

Fellow mosquito bite allergics, what works for you? Do any non-drowsy antihistamines help?
posted by vanitas to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
If Clairitin doesn't do it for you, try Zyrtec or Allegra. I respond ok to Clairitin, but my spouse doesn't - Allegra is for him. Another friend really only gets good results with Zyrtec.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:53 PM on August 2, 2011

There are products that will work but they are not available over the counter. That is the only thing that has ever worked for me.

When I am bitten, I use a prescription strength steroidal cream. With 3-4 applications of triamcinolone acetonide a day for two days, I don't get the huge welts any more.

See your doctor. At the very least, you can ask for stronger anti-itch cream.

Right now, try an ice pack and some Tiger Balm to help with the itching and the swelling. I also carry anti-itch cream and Off! wipes in my bag, so I can apply mosquito repellent on the go.
posted by kathryn at 5:57 PM on August 2, 2011

Hey I just read something about this ( this week's New Yorker - profile about some sort of scientist studying why mosquitoes seem to prefer some people to others). Anyway at the very end of the article she mentions bathing them under water as hot as you can stand it. This might only work if you do it ASAP after the bite. They weren't sure if the hot water does something to the protein or if substituting one sort of pain for another helps control the itch.

On the other end of the spectrum I've used ice packs on both bites and rashes to control the itching and it might work on the swelling. I keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer for this purpose (it's better to mold around the affected area then your standard ice pack).
posted by kaybdc at 6:01 PM on August 2, 2011

I haven't used it yet, but I bought some Apinol based on testimonials I read. It supposedly stops the allergic reaction to bug bites.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:02 PM on August 2, 2011

AfterBite! I too suffer from those huge itchy pink welts. I can be in a group of people and I am the only one itching like crazy.
posted by jillithd at 6:07 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use tea tree lotion. It doesn't stop the swelling but it stops the itch-- mine don't swell as big as you are describing but they stay itchy for about a week.
posted by sadtomato at 6:11 PM on August 2, 2011

I've had success with making a paste of Adolph's meat tenderizer and water and smearing it on the bite. Itchiness is gone in a few moments, swelling after an hour or two. If vanity is an issue, be sure to get the "unseasoned" meat tenderizer, else you'll be orange.
posted by apparently at 6:12 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I get these, and occasionally big swollen fly bites. I use hydrocortisone cream, the strongest over-the-counter option (which I think is 2%). Take ibuprofen if you can. I take Zyrtec every day anyway and figure it can't hurt.

This usually takes care of it within 4-6 hours.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:21 PM on August 2, 2011

I put ice (in a towel, not directly on the skin) on my bites. It soothes the itch and seems to help the angry, red area go away more quickly than anything else I've tried.
posted by wiskunde at 6:22 PM on August 2, 2011

Benadryl spray, regularly reapplied, is the only thing I've ever found to soothe the welts even a bit. Good luck. I HATE mosquito bites. (I also terrify people with my massive swelling.)
posted by Because at 6:33 PM on August 2, 2011

Gold Bond Anti-Itch Lotion. Works in 1 minute, lasts 2-3 hours before you need to reapply. It just got me through a bout of poison ivy.
posted by COD at 6:50 PM on August 2, 2011

As one who gets mozzie bites that swell to hen's egg size, then leak clear yellow goo for weeks afterwards, I sympathize. After bites, Polysporin Anti-itch mostly works. If it's a bite near a joint, only full-strength Benadryl will stop me clawing my skin off. I wasn't going to be able to think straight either way, so at least Benadryl gives you a bit of a stone.

I'm affected so badly that a bite on the thumb causes it to swell so much that it loses all opposability for several days. Srsly, I hate the little bastards.
posted by scruss at 7:24 PM on August 2, 2011

I get welts like you do. I find that if I can survive the first 24 hours without messing with them, they subside to something less freakish and more bearable (though still worse than the bites that normal people get) and will heal within a day or two, rather than itching for a couple of weeks.

Afterbite, ice, benedryl gel, actively distracting myself, willpower, and the occasional sacrificial bite (i.e. Pick one bite and scratch the living crap out of it, but leave the rest alone.) I also find that just covering them with my hand and applying very slight pressure can help soothe the insane urge to scratch to help me get through a bad moment.

An ambitious couple of mosquitoes just managed to brutalize my ankles and forearms an hour ago. I'm slathered in Benadryl and gritting my teeth. )
posted by desuetude at 7:37 PM on August 2, 2011

I sympathize; I too get huge swollen bumps from mosquito bites. Benadryl works at night, but during the day, heat can get you several hour of relief. If you can run them under the hottest water you can stand, the bites will itch so much they'll feel like they're burning. Keep doing this for a while. I believe this locally depletes the histamines that make the bites. Whatever the cause, this really works but be careful. Because you're actually making a burning sensation, it's possible to actually burn yourself doing this.
posted by jefftang at 8:11 PM on August 2, 2011

Benadryl is the only thing that consistently works for me but if I really have to stay awake, I use children's strength Zyrtec (full strength makes me woozy and still isn't as effective as Benadryl). Plus, fun grape flavor!

It's enough to take the "OH GOD MAKE IT STOP" edge off but not reduce the swelling - like it keeps things in a holding pattern so the Benadryl can do its thing when I go to bed.
posted by zix at 8:12 PM on August 2, 2011

Seconding the steroidal cream. My daughter used to get the worst reactions to mosquito bites. The affected area would swell and harden within minutes and would eventually be about 4-5 inches in diameter; and this was on a very small child. The bites would get super red, too, almost like a bad burn. Before we figured out what was going on, she had a couple that started bleeding and she still has the scars (she's 11 now).

The only thing - and I really mean the ONLY thing - that gave her any relief at all was the steroidal cream her doctor prescribed for her. We'd soak her down with bug spray but inevitably she'd get bitten (she's delicious, apparently) and we'd break out the cream.
posted by cooker girl at 8:35 PM on August 2, 2011

For what it's worth, a few years back after a trip to the Virgin Islands, I had legs covered with bites that itched like ... well, I've never been good at metaphors but it was constant and I was miserable. I tried various products to no avail, and then a pharmacist recommended mixing Caladryll lotion, benadryl lotion, and hydrocortisone all together and smearing that over the bites. It made all the difference in the world - really saved my life, let me sleep, and I'm sure allowed the bites to heal faster.
posted by slide at 8:38 PM on August 2, 2011

Response by poster: I have tried hydrocortisone with little success, but I checked the bottle and mine is a wimpy 0.5%. I'll see if I can get anything stronger and give Reactine (our Zyrtec, if I can trust Wikipedia) a shot.
posted by vanitas at 8:50 PM on August 2, 2011

I find that numbing it out with toothache gel can help.
posted by pickypicky at 9:30 PM on August 2, 2011

I've used Tiger Balm (red or white), calamine lotion and the raw pulp from Aloe vera with various degrees of success.
posted by rmmcclay at 10:26 PM on August 2, 2011

I have the exact same problem. I have tried various antihistamines combined with a 1% hydrocortisone cream with no avail. This is the kind of thing where preventative measures are best for, a.k.a. soak yourself in DEET.

Oh, also, if itchiness is your main problem (I have yet to find a solution for the swelling) running the bites under hot water for a few seconds might help.
posted by kuju at 12:07 AM on August 3, 2011

Thirding heat as kaybdc and jefftang suggest. Instead of using hot water, you can also use a hairdryer which might be easer to use depending on where the mosquito bites are.
posted by amf at 12:38 AM on August 3, 2011

I get impressive welts too, and, if I don't put on something soothing ASAP, itchiness that lasts forever.

Here in France they make organic, essential-oil based soothing roll-ons that have done wonders for me. It doesn't stop the immediate itch, but it does help immensely over the long term. It will only itch for an hour rather than weeks, and the welts disappear instead of staying red forever. I'm pale, so I'm really happy to have skin that no longer looks like a battleground. The main ingredients are olive oil (olea europaea), lavender essential oil (lavandula angustifolia – there are different types and this is the purest/most expensive, considered "true" lavender), and peppermint (mentha piperata) essential oil. It's a tiny little thing, only 10ml, and expensive (8 euros), but I've only had to buy one every two years, they last forever since you don't need much. And it smells wonderful. Bonus: lavender helps repel mosquitoes – not 100%, but I've seen skeeters approach spots with the roll-on and buzz away rather than bite.

I've heard that the lavender essential oil is the key since it's a natural antiseptic and relaxant.
posted by fraula at 2:16 AM on August 3, 2011

I have a similar overreaction to mosquito bites. I've found that applying my favourite insect repellent (with a good amount of DEET) after getting bitten helps with the itching, and taking ibuprofen helps with the swelling. I've never found any anithistamines to be very effective.
posted by girlgeeknz at 1:40 AM on August 6, 2011

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