Everyone's been there. It's a hot day, mosquitoes are swarming and then the itching starts – they got you. Inevitably, someone will claim that those pesky little bugs only bite people who are sweet. That's cold comfort when itchy, ugly red bumps start swelling on the skin. To banish those red bumps, aim to stop the itching. Scratching at itchy bites keeps them irritated and swollen. Get rid of the itch and the swelling should follow.
Ice Out Swelling
Before turning to medications to soothe mosquito bites, head for the kitchen. Some of the everyday items there might provide some relief and take down the swelling. Start with ice. It combats mosquito bites in a few ways. Applying ice to an irritated area can bring down swelling and reduce itchiness. That's important, because scratching at a mosquito bite only prolongs the swelling and discomfort and can even lead to infection.
Fill plastic baggies with crushed ice and press one against each bite, until the cold sensation becomes too unpleasant or the swelling and itching go down. Frozen ice packs work too. In a pinch, press ice cubes directly against the skin. Used tea bags, chilled in the refrigerator and pressed against bites, also bring down swelling and provide cooling relief.
Try Other Home Remedies
A paste of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water, applied directly to the wound, may help reduce itching and thereby shorten the life of the bite. Leave the paste on at least until it dries completely. Wipe it away with a damp cloth.
Some people swear that rubbing a cotton ball dipped in lemon juice or vinegar against a bite is an effective remedy, but your mileage may vary. Don't use anything acidic on broken skin.
Apply an OTC Lotion
To treat persistent bites that won't go down after a day or so, take a trip to the drugstore. Calamine lotion, made with zinc, is the old standby for treating bug bites. Apply the lotion to swollen bumps, let it dry and leave the dried lotion in place for a few hours. Reapply calamine lotion whenever the bites start to itch.
Turn to Medication if Necessary
Antihistamines work on both swelling and itchiness. Oral antihistamines containing diphenhydramine or loratadine are both good options, but consult a doctor first if you're pregnant or have any medical conditions.
If no home remedies or over-the-counter products lessen the swelling or itchiness after a few days, or if the swelling increases over time, call the doctor. Some people are more affected by mosquito bites than others, and banishing them might require professional treatment. Prescription topical steroids may do the trick. And if any other unusual symptoms appear – like shortness of breath or spreading patches of redness – call the doctor immediately. Mosquitoes sometimes carry serious diseases.
Kathryn Walsh has been writing about health, wellness and beauty for nearly 10 years. Her work has appeared on sites including USAToday.com, Mamapedia and Livestrong.com.