What's the best way to soothe mosquito bites?
June 2, 2005 9:00 AM   Subscribe

It's that time again: summer, and the bugs are out in full-force. Common insect bites and stings, while not life-threatening, can be irritating and uncomfortable. And scratching often leads to infection. What's the best way to soothe mosquito bites?

After a Memorial Day in the park, I came home with some bites on my hands and fingers. I've tried Maximum Cortizone 10 (Hydrocortisone), Calamine Lotion, Aveeno Anti-Itch Lotion (Calamine, Pramoxine HCl, and Camphor), and Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Stopping Cream (Diphenhydramine HCl, Zinc Acetate).

I'm also currently taking Claritin for seasonal allergies which should help. And doing cold compresses when I can. But the itching is still driving me insane!

When I was overseas, I was given topical sulfadiazine. The sulfadiazine helps bring the swelling down, but it's not available OTC in the US so it's not a good long-term solution because I get bitten quite often.
posted by kathryn to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm the type mosquitoes find very attractive -- suffered terribly, until I moved out of the skeeter zone.

When I was small, my grandmother would daub toothpaste on my bites, and then have me sit on a stool in front of a fan. This seemed to help.
posted by Rash at 9:20 AM on June 2, 2005

Use your nail and crease an x into them. I forgot why this works but it does relieve the itching and makes the swelling go down faster.
posted by substrate at 9:20 AM on June 2, 2005

I keep a spritzer of vinegar to spray on them, after the initial burn the itch goes away and they don't get infected.
posted by hortense at 9:26 AM on June 2, 2005

To follow on substrate's post; crease a (painful, if done right, should just about break the skin, at least the epidermal layer) X in them, then dab some of your own saliva on the cross. Works like magic for me.
posted by Merdryn at 9:28 AM on June 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tiger Balm. Sweet, sweet, cheap Tiger Balm. Rub a little on a mosquito bite and the itchiness is replaced by a pleasant warm feeling.

Also, beforehand: socks... wear socks. For some reason mosquitos think ankles (or maybe just my ankles) are like the tastiest thing in the world.
posted by blueberry at 9:33 AM on June 2, 2005

I always thought that putting an 'X' into bug bites went hand in hand with picking at scabs and other gross things I did to my body as a kid. I didn't think it had any real function, other than making it feel better for approximately 5 seconds.
posted by crapulent at 9:48 AM on June 2, 2005

Take a washcloth and run it under hot water. It should be as hot as you can stand. Apply the steaming-hot washcloth to the bite and leave it there for at least a minute.
posted by bshort at 10:10 AM on June 2, 2005

I don't have any useful suggestions for stopping itching, but instead have a word of preventative advice: if you are freshly showered, mosquitos don't bite as much. They are attracted by the smell of sweat/salt, and if you eliminate that, you eliminate the appeal.
posted by Specklet at 10:18 AM on June 2, 2005

I think an X helps distribute the toxin which helps the body to deal with it faster. Works okay for me. Vinegar sounds worth a try, too.

Has anyone tried one of those sparker things?
posted by sagwalla at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2005

Best answer: I'm extra allergic to mosquito bites - they usually swell to the size of quarters on me, especially if I scratch at them. The only thing I've found to work really well for me is Goldbond. Put some of that on, don't scratch, and they'll be almost gone the next day. It can be found at most drug and grocery stores.
posted by geeky at 10:21 AM on June 2, 2005

I've always found that if you don't touch the bite, it goes away much faster. I just spent a week climbing in Yosemite, with clouds of mosquitos at the base of every climb. The only bites that bothered me were the ones getting chafed by clothing.
posted by Manjusri at 10:50 AM on June 2, 2005

I knew someone from the UK who had this little clicker device that sent a small electric charge into new mosquito bites. Said it worked wonders killing the itch.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:05 AM on June 2, 2005

At the risk of sounding like a wisecracker, the best solution is to not get bitten in the first place. Use repellants, they work.
posted by monkeyman at 11:10 AM on June 2, 2005

I do the ol' baking soda paste trick - and I get majorly itchy when mosquitoes bite. Just add enough water to get a paste and smear it on the bites. Try not to disturb it until it dries.
posted by O9scar at 12:14 PM on June 2, 2005

Yeah, DEET's great. I'm a firm believer.

But if you're the homeopathic type:
Apparently Vitamin B1 creates an odor on our skin that bugs don't like.
I've heard garlic is helpful and Straight Dope seems to agree, however it doesn't last as long as DEET.
posted by sublivious at 12:18 PM on June 2, 2005

I put some sort of anti-itch product on bug bites (anything will do, usually hydrocortizone) and then cover them with band-aids. Scratching/touching mosquito bites only makes them worse, so the band-aid acts as a sort of scratch-barrier.
posted by muddgirl at 12:24 PM on June 2, 2005

I'm hypersensitive to bug bites like geeky is. Swallowing Benedryl capsules takes the swelling and itch down, but makes me groggy. My Allegra-D for seasonal allergies doesn't have too much effect on my mosquito bites; I don't know that your Claritin will either, but good luck.

Re: Prevention. I despise smelling like Off! DEET seems to make me a bit photosensitive, as well. I am now a deeply ferverent fan of Bite Blocker and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus. They work. For real. Even in the jungle in Mexico. And I'm the kind of person who gets eaten alive by bugs when no-one else gets bitten.
posted by desuetude at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Similar to the hot washcloth remedy try a hand held hair dryer. Aim the hot air at the bites till it's too hot to stand then don't scratch. It will itch for a few seconds then stop. I don't know why this works but it seems to work for anything that itches.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:42 PM on June 2, 2005

tea tree oil mixed at equal parts with of jojoba oil, then that mixture dispersed at 10% to 90% aloe should do nice things for existing bites. Jojoba is used in teeny, tiny amounts...try a little bit and rub it it before slathering yourself.

Prevention: Lemon Eucalyptus is the new black. I disperse it at about 10-20% in aloe vera gel. (Depending on the viscosity of the gel.)
posted by dejah420 at 2:50 PM on June 2, 2005

Response by poster: I'm extra allergic to mosquito bites - they usually swell to the size of quarters on me, especially if I scratch at them.

As am I, with the worst ones swelling to about 2" in diameter, with red, raised centers the size of a half-dollar, and, afterwards, scars to match. Like desuetude, I get bitten when no one else seems to, even if I'm not out hiking, in the country or in a park.

The band-aid trick is helping me to not scratch, but one of the bites is on my knuckle so it's hard to get a band-aid on there. Additionally, the bites get irritated every time I wash my hands.

I went to the drugstore and got a bunch of different remedies: Tiger Balm, Goldbond, Lanacane, and After Bite. Hopefully one will work. I can say one thing, though: the Goldbond feels really nice because the menthol causes it to tingle on your skin.
posted by kathryn at 5:11 PM on June 2, 2005

vicks vaporub.
posted by glenwood at 6:21 PM on June 2, 2005

Afterbite really does have to be used immediately. Before ANY scratching. It does seem to knock a few days off the overall healing, though. I actually prefer the generic version -- it seems to work better for me. I love the Gold Bond and Tiger Balm suggestions, too -- I've tried a lot of remedies, but not those two. They're on my shopping list.

Those of us who are unfairly over-affected by bites should report our findings after the summer is over.
posted by desuetude at 7:00 PM on June 2, 2005

What works best for me is Band-Aid brand anti-itch gel, formerly Rhuli brand gel. It's also clear.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:41 AM on June 3, 2005

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