If you’ve ever been camping with a group of small children, you know the biggest fear isn’t bears, mountain lions or thunderstorms--it’s mosquitoes. The dread of eternal itchiness lies deep in the hearts of young explorers. Luckily, antihistamines, lotions, cold compresses, and other home remedies can save the day.
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
Like their vampire cousins of folklore, mosquitoes need your blood to live.
To produce and lay eggs, the female mosquito requires proteins found in your blood or the blood of other mammals. To obtain these, she drills into your skin with a straw-like proboscis and then siphons the blood out. The proboscis is a set of six needles, each with a specific function for boring into your flesh.
During the bite, the female excretes an anticoagulant that prevents your blood from clotting around the proboscis and trapping her. Your body senses this saliva as a foreign substance and triggers an immune system response. You release a histamine that expedites white blood cells to the scene like an ambulance after an accident.
When histamines overreact, they cause an allergic reaction. The result is the red, puffy inflammation you experience after a mosquito bite. The severity of the reaction can vary from person to person.
What are the risks of a mosquito bite?
Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal on the planet because of the diseases they can carry. While these are uncommon in the U.S., mosquitoes spread West Nile, Malaria, Zika and several other dangerous diseases.
Most often mosquito bites result in a mild to moderate itch that is inconvenient at worst. In extreme cases, bites can result in more severe reactions like:
· Large swollen areas (also called skeeter syndrome)
· Low-grade fever
· Swollen lymph nodes
Children are more likely to show severe reactions as their bodies have not yet desensitized to mosquito bites. If any severe symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
How do I stop a mosquito bite from itching?
The biggest challenge in stopping the itch is: Don’t scratch your mosquito bites.
Scratching can further irritate the affected area and may lead to infection.
There are a lot of itch sticks and creams at your local pharmacy. According to the Mayo Clinic, the best treatments are:
· Hydrocortisone cream – a steroid that slows the immune response.
· Calamine lotion – creates a cooling sensation on skin
· Cold compress – reduces inflammation
· Oral antihistamine (for more severe cases) – reduces the histamine response
In addition to the above medically-proven responses, there are many home remedies that you can try . Here are a few time-proven treatments and why they might give you itch relief:
· Oatmeal works as an anti-irritant. Make a paste or soak in a bath.
· Honey has antibacterial properties and can discourage itching.
· Baking soda is like oatmeal. Make a paste with water.
· Thyme is an antifungal and can be applied directly.
· Chamomile and other teas have anti-inflammatory properties.
· Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe skin.
· Basil contains eugenol-a chemical compound that relieves itch.
· Vinegar disinfects and reduces burning and stinging sensations.
· Garlic is an anti-viral but don’t rub it directly on skin; dilute it with coconut oil.
When you desperately seek itch relief, nothing seems too crazy. Hopefully, the above list connects you to the right fix.
How do I protect my family from mosquitoes?
Stopping itch starts with prevention. There is a lot you can do to minimize your risk of mosquito bites, including ways to keep populations away from your home.
· Avoid prime time. Mosquitoes fear dehydration during sunlight hours and are most active during this period between dusk and dawn.
· Cover your body. Long sleeves, pants and mosquito nets over strollers provide a proboscis-proof barrier against attack.
· Use repellent. If you’re outside for periods working, hiking, hunting etc., a good bug spray like DEET or Picaridin provides a strong deterrent against mosquitoes finding and biting you.
· Fortify your home. Mosquitoes thrive in standing water. Empty barrels, flowerpots, birdbaths, and any other water sources where mosquitoes may lay their eggs. Keep doors closed and screens in good working order.
A little prevention might go along way before you find yourself submerged in an oatmeal bath eagerly slathering calamine everywhere.
Mosquito Control Solutions That Work
If you wake up in cold itchy sweats unable to escape the buzzing drone of blood-thirsty swarms outside your window, it may be time for additional support.
We’re here for you. Plunkett’s offers real mosquito control solutions that work. Let one of our technicians evaluate your mosquito problem and offer long-term ways to keep you and your family bite-free and itch-free.