SUMMER HEALTH: What’s the Best Way to Treat a Bug Bite?

Top Doctor and dermatologist Warren Heymann tells you how

School may be only weeks away, but mosquito season is anywhere but over. In fact, the danger zone for these big-time biters lasts through early- to mid-October — which means there’s a good chance you’ll end up on the menu at least once before you pull out those sweaters. Check out Philadelphia magazine Top Doctor and dermatologist at Cooper University Hospital Warren Heymann’s top three tips for treating bites. (And check out our list of cool local finds that’ll keep bugs away naturally here.)

Ice it. “The itching, redness, and swelling are the results of the immune system reacting to the saliva that the mosquito deposits at the site of the bite,” says Dr. Heymann, who suggests putting ice on the bite for immediate relief. “Ice constricts capillaries, which limits blood flow to the area. This reduces swelling and dulls sensation, causing temporary relief by numbing the area.” Leave ice on for no more than five minutes at a time, and wait five to ten minutes between sessions, repeating the process as needed.

Go OTC. If ice just isn’t cutting it, try a topical or oral antihistamine like Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra or Zyrtec, says Dr. Heymann. They’ll block the histamines the body produces in reaction to the mosquito’s saliva, which in turn cause you to itch. Prescription antihistamines are available for severe reactions.

Leave it be. “Scratching will irritate the site further,” says Dr. Heymann, noting that it can also prolong the healing process and lead to infection caused by bacteria on the skin or under fingernails. Even if a bacterial infection doesn’t occur, excessive scratching can cause scabs, which often leave scars.