A cool tea bag can stop itchy insect bites.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / GettyImages
Chances are you’ve already had a handful of mosquito bites and you will have more as the warm weather wears off. But while insect bites can be a summer ritual, you can forego swelling, pain, and itching, thank you very much.
If you’ve ever been up all night scratching and clapping in a particularly bad spot, you may have wondered what you could do to find relief.
Why do mosquito bites itch anyway?
When a mosquito bites you, some of its saliva seeps into your skin as it feasts on your blood. Your body actually responds to some of the proteins in saliva, much like it does when you have an allergic reaction, explains Kevin McGrath, MD, an allergist in Wethersfield, Connecticut and spokesman for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. As a result, you will notice a gradual onset of swelling, itching, and redness over the next few hours.
This is usually nothing more than a nuisance. However, some people have a more intense reaction that includes large swelling and redness, as well as other symptoms such as a mild fever, hives, and swollen lymph nodes (this phenomenon is often called skeeter syndrome). This type of response usually improves over time, but it can take longer – up to 10 days, notes Dr. McGrath.
1. Over-the-counter antihistamines
“This is by far the most effective way to treat itching because these drugs stop your body from releasing histamine, a chemical your body releases as part of its inflammatory response to a mosquito bite,” says Dr. McGrath.
You can start taking it as soon as you experience itching and swelling. The drug of choice is diphenhydramine (Benadryl) because it works very quickly, notes McGrath. But since it can also have a sedative effect, you should save it for the night or use one of the newer second-generation antihistamines such as fexofenadine (Allegra), cetirizine (Zyrtec) or loratadine (Claritin).
“The cold aids in the inflammation from the bite, and the ice helps numb the area of skin that the mosquito has bitten and is itchy,” said Debra Jaliman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine Mount. Sinai and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.
Since direct ice on the skin is not recommended for long periods of time, she recommends applying an ice pack for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and itching, then giving your skin a break for a few minutes and reapplying if necessary.
“This, when combined with ice and antihistamines, is always a good first line of defense against mosquito bites,” says Dr. McGrath. “It works by creating a cooling sensation as it evaporates on your skin.”
Apply a swab to your bite and reapply when the itching returns – usually after a few hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends applying a mixture of baking soda and water to reduce itching.
Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with just enough water to make a paste, then apply it to the bite. Wait 10 minutes, then wash the paste off.
5. Over-the-counter cortisone cream
These can help contain the inflammation associated with the bite, says Dr. McGrath. Use it twice a day for five to ten days, or for as long as symptoms persist.
If your bite is really big and itchy and you are really uncomfortable, then you can always call your doctor and ask them about a prescription cream that is stronger.
“It can help soothe the area, and because it has antibacterial properties, it can even prevent the bite from becoming infected,” says Dr. Jaliman. “It won’t do as much for the itching as other home remedies, however.”
You can put a swab of the sweet stuff on the bite several times a day. Just don’t do it before you go outside as the honey itself may attract more bugs.
A tea bag soaked in cold water has properties similar to ice: it helps reduce inflammation and numb the area of skin, says Dr. Jaliman.
But the tea bag itself also contains substances, so-called tannins, which have an anti-inflammatory effect, she notes. Use black tea, which has the most tannins in it.
Apply to the bite like an ice pack for 10 minutes, then reapply if necessary.
This simple home remedy also relieves inflammation and itching, says Dr. Jaliman.
While there hasn’t been any research directly looking at oatmeal and insect bites, a 2015 study in the Journal of Drug Dermatology found that an oatmeal-based lotion relieved drought-related itching on women’s legs after about two weeks.
You can add ground oatmeal to a bath or buy a pre-made version at the drug store, such as. B. Aveeno Soothing Spa Treatment.
It’s known as a sunburn pacifier, but aloe can also help with inflammation, redness, and cooling of the area, says Dr. Jaliman, which makes the itching much more bearable.
You can buy the gel in almost any drugstore and apply it several times a day.
Keep your aloe vera gel in the refrigerator instead of your medicine cabinet, as the common cold itself also helps relieve itching, notes Dr. Jaliman.
What about these bug bite suction devices?
These devices – like the Bug Bite Thing that claims to suck up all of the venom from insect bites – are all the rage on Amazon, but there’s no good scientific evidence that they work.
While some users swear by it, the reason they can temporarily relieve itching seems to be because the suction increases blood flow to the area, which helps reduce inflammation, emphasizes Dr. McGrath.
They can’t do any harm, but neither may they be worth the $ 10 to spend on them.
How about you hit yourself?
You may have heard that clapping on a mosquito bite can stop the itching, and there is some truth to it: “Tapping the itchy area disrupts the nerves that send signals to the brain that allow you to feeling the itch, “explains Dr Jaliman.
The problem, she notes, is that it only takes a few seconds, so it only works if you’re willing to beat yourself up over and over again. It’s probably easier to just apply some calamine lotion and end the day.
Most mosquito bites can be safely treated at home, but sometimes you need to see a doctor, says Dr. McGrath. The two most important are:
1. You have a severe allergic reaction. If you notice any swelling beyond the insect bite, e.g. B. on your face, eyes, lips, tongue or throat, or find that you have difficulty breathing or swallowing, call 911, says Dr. McGrath, as this could indicate a very serious allergy, answer.
2. The bite becomes infected.This can happen if you scratch it, which is why finding ways to stop the itching is so important, notes Dr. McGrath. The signs include a fever, sudden redness or warmth, and a red streak spreading from the bite.