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4 Fast Ways to Treat Gnat Bites & How to Prevent Infection

Gnat isolated on food close-up.

Gnats are a pain – literally. Some bite, others suck blood – and others just munch away on plants. What most people call “gnats” are actually fungus gnats or fruit flies, and some can be a serious nuisance.

If you’re bit by one of these tiny winged creatures, you’re dealing with gnats and not fruit flies.

What should you do if you get bit? What’s the best way to get rid of the bite? Here’s everything you need to know about gnat bites.

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Read more about Gnats and Fruit Flies

Do Gnats Bite?

Gnats are tiny flies, and they’re sometimes called midges or blackflies. Similar to mosquitoes, these insects prefer warm, moist places where they can lay their eggs. They also need blood to survive.

Yes, gnats can and do bite. And while they can’t bite through clothing, they can get underneath your clothing and even crawl into your hair. These are tiny creatures.

But it’s important to note that not all gnats bite. Some just feed on decaying plant matter.

Do Gnats Bite Humans?

Yes, gnats will bite humans. But you’ll be happy to know that while their bites can be an annoyance, these insects are not known to transmit disease to humans.

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The only exception is the eye gnat, which is known to transmit conjunctivitis.

Not all gnats bite, and not all biting gnats bite humans. The most common types of biting gnats include:

  • Deer flies
  • Buffalo gnats
  • Biting midges
  • Stable flies
  • Sand flies

Some biting gnats may transmit diseases that affect animals, particularly livestock. Biting midges, for example, are known to transmit the Blue Tongue virus, which is a major cause of disease among livestock in the Western region of the United States. The Blue Tongue virus does not affect humans.

What Does a Gnat Bite Look Like?

When gnats bite, they don’t actually break the skin like mosquitoes or fleas. Instead, they use what’s called “cutters” inside of their mouths to slice your skin open. That slicing action gives them access to your blood, which they feed on to survive.

Some types of gnats may also inject an anti-clotting agent that prevents your wound from clotting quickly, so they can continue feeding uninterrupted.

Gnat bites are small, and may look like a simple pinprick. Some people may notice a tiny red spot at the site of the bite.

Swelling is common around the site of the bite, which can cause skin irritation. In cases where the bite is infected, it may swell larger and contain pus.

Some people are allergic to gnat bites, which can cause more extreme symptoms and swelling at the site of the bite. A visit to the doctor is advised if you experience allergy symptoms after being bit by a gnat.

To get a better idea of what they look like, we recommend searching for gnat bites pictures online.

Do Gnat Bites Itch?

Yes. More often than not, gnat bites will be incredibly itchy. But other people experience more of a painful sensation than an itching one.

As the bite begins to swell, the itching will become even more intense. And while this may be difficult, you want to refrain from scratching these bites. Gnat bites can easily become infected from scratching, which will intensify swelling and may require a doctor’s visit for treatment.

How Long Do Gnat Bites Last?

Just like any other insect bite, gnat bites can last anywhere between two days to a week, depending on the number of bites and your reaction to them.

If you have an allergic reaction to the bite, it may take longer to heal. If the wound gets infected, it may be at least a week until you recover from the bite and the infection.

How to Treat Gnat Bites

For most people, gnat bites require no treatment. Like mosquito bites, they heal on their own within a few days. But if the itching or pain becomes unbearable (or you just want to speed up the healing process) there are things you can do to find relief.

1. Wash the Bite Area

The first and most important thing is to wash the bite with soap and water. You may also want to apply an antiseptic. Rubbing alcohol can work, or you can go the natural route by applying diluted lavender or rosemary oil.

Hydrogen peroxide and iodine are other conventional antiseptics.

Washing the bite and applying an antiseptic can help prevent infection, which will require more aggressive treatment.

2. Bring Down the Swelling and Minimize the Itching

There are several ways to reduce inflammation and minimize the itching from gnat bites. Some methods are natural, while others are more conventional.

Please note that these methods will work for all gnat bites, including buffalo gnat bites and sand gnat bites.

1. Apple Cider VinegarClose up of a cup of vinegar with one and a half apples beside.

Try applying a little apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the wound. AVC is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and can also relieve itching from the bite. This vinegar can also serve as an antiseptic.

To use this method, soak a cotton ball in the vinegar, and apply directly to the bite.

2. Ice the Bite

If the itching and swelling becomes unbearable, try applying an ice pack to the wound. Allow the ice to work for 15-20 minutes. The cooling sensation will help bring down the swelling while also numbing the skin to alleviate itching.

Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. Keep the pack in between a towel, and do not allow the pack to sit on the wound for longer than 20 minutes. Please do not fall asleep with the ice pack.

3. Apply an Over-the-Counter Anti-Itch Cream

For immediate relief, try applying an over-the-counter anti-itching cream, like Cortizone-10. These creams often contain hydrocortisone, which is a chemical agent that provides temporary itch relief.

These creams may also contain aloe, which soothes the skin.

Calamine lotion is another great option that can help alleviate itching.

4. Essential OilsEssential oil dropping from fresh leaf to the brown bottle.

When it comes to insect bites, essential oils are a great tool to have on hand. Just a few drops of oil is all you need to find relief from itching and swelling. Most also help prevent infection, helping you take a three-prong approach to treating your bite.

The best essential oils for gnats are:

  • Lavender
  • Tea tree
  • Lemon balm
  • Chamomile
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppermint

Thyme mixed with a little bit of apple cider vinegar is especially useful against gnat bites.

It’s important to remember that essential oils are incredibly potent, and they should not be applied directly to the skin. Always dilute the oil with a carrier oil, like almond, apricot, jojoba or coconut oil.

And do check to make sure that you’re using true essential oils and not fragrance oils, which contain synthetic ingredients. Therapeutic-grade essential oils work best.

3. Check for Signs of Infection and Reapply Treatments

Keep a close eye on your bite to check for signs of infection. If you notice that the bite becomes even more swollen and is filled with pus, a trip to the doctor is in order. Your physician will prescribe you a treatment (topical or oral) to help clear the infection.

Make sure to reapply the treatment each day to keep your wound clean and to prevent swelling and itching. If you’re using an over-the-counter anti-itch cream, follow the directions on the box for re-application times and methods.

Gnats are a nuisance, but their bites will heal on their own in a few days. With a little help from the methods above, you can keep the swelling and itching at bay until the bite finally heals.

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