Ask Dr. Monti: What’s the Best Way to Treat a Mosquito Bite?

Answer from Daniel A. Monti, director of the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital

Dr. Monti

If bitten by a mosquito, immediately clean the area thoroughly with soap and water. You can expect intense itching and a visible bump for 24 hours. Your symptoms will be less intense on the second day, and disappear after about 48 hours. These symptoms are indicative of our body’s immune reaction to the mosquito’s saliva, which is discharged into the skin during a bite. Mosquito saliva includes a protein that is foreign to the human body, which is why a bite so closely resembles allergic reactions. The timeline and severity of symptoms vary depending on your sensitivity and the amount of saliva discharged. No matter how uncomfortable, it’s important to resist scratching the bite. You could easily break the skin and cause an infection. If there is redness past three days, persistent pain or excessive swelling, consult your physician immediately. To minimize the symptoms of a mosquito bite, there are over-the-counter medications that can help with the itchiness, but there are a few effective home remedies as well, including:

Baking Soda Paste: Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a few drops of water. Gradually add more water until a thick paste forms. Using a cotton swab, apply the paste over the swollen bite. Leave it on the skin until it dries completely. Then, rinse off the paste. This is my favorite remedy for insect bites.

Hot Water: Run hot water (120 F) over the bite for a few seconds. Be very careful to not make the water too hot—no hotter than what you would use for a hot shower. You can also use a warm compress for a few seconds instead.

Ammonia: This is most effective if applied immediately after the bite occurs, and you only need to dab a little on the bite. Some like witch hazel as well.

Adhesive Tape: Some people insist that adhesive tape over the bite will minimize or stop the itching. The rationale is that by applying “counter tension” on the bite will reduce the urge to itch. If you want to give this approach a try, I recommend tightly applying a band-aide, but only do this for a day and then let the area breathe.

E-mail Dr. Monti your question here, and he could answer it an upcoming blog post! Dr. Monti is Director of the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the author of “The Great Life Makeover”. Read more about him here.

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