To pop or not to pop...insect bite edition
May 14, 2021 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Is there a safe way to drain bug bite blisters? How long will it take for them to go away on their own if I can resist popping them?

I have received several (15 or so) bite behind and around my knees. I'm not sure from what or how I got them, but they've been there for several days. They are super itchy. I'm dealing with the itch a variety of ways, none terribly effective - tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, benedryl gel, floucinicide ointment... They range in size from 1/16" to the largest at about 1/4" and are blistered. So far I have (mostly) been able to avoid popping them, but the itch and blisters have not subsided. Will they go away more quickly if I can manage to leave them intact, or is there a safe way to pop them, and will they heal more quickly?
posted by ms_rasclark to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The danger with popping the blisters is that they can become infected, I got a pretty nasty skin infection from a popped ant bite.

In my experience oddly enough oral Zyrtec is the best remedy for bug bites.
posted by muddgirl at 10:59 AM on May 14, 2021

I would not pop them due to infection risk.

I second taking an oral antihistamine to help combat the itch. I also find that standing under a hot shower (not scalding!) and letting the hot water run over itchy bites helps mitigate itchy bites.
posted by bedhead at 11:05 AM on May 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Definitely don't pop them if you can help it. It's unlikely to stop the itching, and you might end up with impetigo or a staph infection. Have you tried Hydrocortisone cream on the bites? In my experience it's usually more effective than Benedryl gel.
posted by Jemstar at 11:06 AM on May 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I use homemade after bite, a paste of baking soda and ammonia, pretty effective, will stain wood furniture.
posted by theora55 at 11:53 AM on May 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding hydrocortisone cream.

I’ve had the most success with applying it either immediately after I notice the bite (ideally), otherwise right before bed so that I sleep better and the skin gets 8 hours to heal peacefully with no scratching.
posted by mekily at 12:08 PM on May 14, 2021

Seconding the infection risk. I recently had a ingrown hair cyst. I was told it was good I didn't pop it, because of how such things can easily become infected. A doctor or PA is best equipped to do so safely if they need popping, and can give you an antibiotic prescription -- and will culture what's in the blister so that they know if they need to switch antibiotics for effectiveness (which is exactly what they needed to do in my case).
posted by metabaroque at 12:43 PM on May 14, 2021

I am super sensitive to bug bites and have had success using a combination of Xyzal and a very short hot water blast (feels SO GOOD). Though it might be difficult to aim a proper hot water blast behind your knee, and you don't want to burn yourself.

The fact that they have turned to blisters and you don't know what they're from seems concerning though. In your case I might try to see a nurse at a walk-in clinic to take a look. I went to a nurse at a CVS Minute Clinic for a blistered bite once and it was helpful. In my case, they did drain the blister and gave me instructions on how to keep it from getting infected.
posted by wondermouse at 1:21 PM on May 14, 2021

Best answer: I've always been sensitive to bug bites but a few years ago I returned from a vacation where the mosquitoes were especially thick, and had the type of reaction you described. It didn't get any better over the next two weeks. None of my usual itch-relief methods worked and I was constantly fighting the urge to scratch my legs. Some of the blisters even broke and scabbed over but refused to fully heal. It was the EXTREME nonstop itchiness that finally drove me to my doctor, who immediately diagnosed papular urticaria. I was prescribed steroids for the reaction and itchiness, and antibiotics to prevent cellulitis. Don't drain the blisters, it won't help with the itching and can easily get infected. (I'm sorry my advice is "see a health care professional," but it turned out only rx drugs could help me. I didn't want to go because of something as dumb as mosquito bites, but really, welts and severe itchiness that lasts more than a few days is not normal. And potential cellulitis is nothing to fool around with.)
posted by ohcanireally at 12:41 AM on May 15, 2021

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