Few things are more annoying than coming home from your weekend trip or outdoor happy hour covered in mosquito bites. First order of business: figuring out how to get rid of mosquito bites. While the itching and swelling usually go away after a week (depending on how your immune system handles the bites), the dark spots and scarring left behind from scratching can last far longer.
“Mosquito bites have the potential to cause a local reaction that peaks after 20 to 30 minutes,” says board-certified anesthesiologist and physician Azza Halim, MD. This reaction usually manifests as inflammation, itching, discomfort, and visible red bumps. When you can’t resist scratching these bites, they can scar, turn into dark spots, or even get infected.
Avoiding bites with bug screens and netting, mosquito repellent, and clothing is the easiest way to not deal with any of the above. But when you inevitably get bitten this summer, here’s how to get rid of mosquito bites according to the experts.
What should I do when I get bitten by a mosquito?
Immediate care can make a big difference in how fast your bite goes down. Dr. Halim recommends washing any bites first, then applying a cold compress and topical hydrocortisone cream. While it’s a good idea to always keep a tube on hand during the warmer months, you can also apply a paste of baking soda and water, or a dab of toothpaste with baking soda. “Don’t scratch the area, as that can stimulate a histamine response cycle as well as increase risk of infection,” she says.
Another easy way to naturally slow inflammation from bites is ice. “If you ice immediately, you can stop inflammation in its tracks,” says dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD. Extreme cold temperatures are key to reducing swelling—but in order to keep from further irritating your skin, wrap the ice cubes or an ice pack in a towel.
How can I tell whether I’m allergic to mosquito bites?
“Your body’s immune response to a mosquito bite can vary from mild to allergic to severe reactivity, which determines how much of a red itchy lump results from the bite,” says Dr. Halim.
If your itching is especially large, bruised, or raised into hives and welts, you’re likely allergic. Severe cases can also result in fever, difficulty breathing, and swelling of your throat. Most allergic reactions can be treated with Benadryl, calamine lotion, and anti-itch creams. “Use an EpiPen if your airway or respiratory symptoms are involved,” says Dr. Halim. And in severe cases, visit your doctor immediately.
How long do mosquito bites last?
Most mosquito bites will heal in 10 days, but Dr. Halim says that you can speed it up to five to seven if you’re diligent with care. After washing and cooling your bites immediately, resist the urge to scratch them in the following days. If they start getting itchy, cool them or apply hydrocortisone and soothing topicals for relief. You can also use aloe vera gel and OTC oral antihistamines to get rid of them faster.
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