Employee & Community Health

Easing the itch of mosquito bites

7/12/2018 by Dr. Summer Allen

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There are millions of mosquitoes swarming this summer, sucking blood and leaving itchy, red bumps on the skin. Mosquitoes are pesky parasites that leave bites that can be unbearably itchy. So what's the best way to cope with this summertime nuisance?

The best way to keep mosquito bites to a minimum is to: 

  • Use repellent sprays or wipes containing DEET, picardin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, a plant-based option
  • Avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when skeeters are most active
  • Repair any tears in window and door screens and camping gear
  • Use mosquito netting over strollers and cribs or when sleeping outdoors

If you do get a bite, why does it itch? Mosquitoes deposit saliva in our skin when they bite us. Out bodies react to the saliva, causing a bump, which usually clears up on its own in a few days, but can cause unbearable itching in the meantime. 

Some of the tried-and-true home remedies for treating mosquito bites work well to calm down bites, including calamine lotion, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream and even a cold compress. 

These remedies sooth and quiet the intense burning and inflammation we feel in our skin. But while it's not always easy, it's also important to not scratch them. Why? If we scratch bites hard enough, it can break the skin. Then there's a chance of developing a bacterial infection. 

Although using insect repellent and other prevention tips can reduce your chances of being bit, getting at least one skeeter bite this summer is almost inevitable. When you do, let time and home remedies work their magic. And don't scratch!

Learn more about mosquito bites or watch this short video featuring Dr. Summer Allen. 

Dr. Summer Allen is a primary care physician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Department of Family Medicine. She also serves as medical director of Patient Experience for the Mayo Clinic Health System, Southeast Minnesota region. Her practice covers the full spectrum of family medicine with an obstetrical practice that focuses on patient education and women's health. Her research interests include understanding how to engage patients, improve their experience and health care delivery innovation. Dr. Allen is involved in the Knowledge Education Research (KER) unit at Mayo Clinic to better understand the impact of minimally disruptive medicine and shared decision making in practice.