They itch, they swell and sometimes, they hurt. Mosquito bites are par for the course in the summer, but you don’t have to live in misery. There are ways – natural ways – to treat bites. And there are ways to prevent bites, too, without resorting to harsh chemicals like DEET.
To understand why these remedies work, it helps to understand why the bites itch. It’s also important to be aware of potential diseases transmitted through bites, so you know when to seek medical treatment.
Table of Contents
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- Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
- Mosquito Diseases & Allergies
- Home Remedies for Mosquito Bites
- Essential Oils for Mosquito Bites
- Natural Remedies to Stop Mosquito Bites from Itching
- How to Prevent Mosquito Bites
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
It’s bad enough that mosquitoes suck your blood, but their bites leave behind an itch that’s never satisfied.
But why do the bites itch?
When mosquitoes bite, they pierce your skin and draw blood with their straw-like mouths. At the same time, the mosquito injects some of its saliva into the bite. That little bit of saliva contains a potent anticoagulant that keeps your blood from clotting.
It’s not the saliva that triggers that itching sensation – it’s your immune system.
Right away, the body recognizes the saliva as a foreign substance, and launches an attack. How? By releasing histamine.
Histamine is what causes the itching sensation. Blood vessels swell, and create the swelling around the bite.
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What’s interesting is that not all adults have this reaction: some don’t even notice they’ve been bitten, and bites never swell.
Over time, people can also develop a tolerance for the saliva.
Most adults develop a tolerance to the mosquitoes near their homes, and likely won’t have as strong of a reaction as children do.
But when traveling or moving to a new area with a different species of mosquitoes, strong reactions can be experienced.
Mosquito Diseases & Allergies
Mosquito bites can be a nuisance, but they can also be dangerous. These blood-sucking creatures can transmit a number of diseases that can be deadly in some cases.
Some people also have mosquito allergies that can cause severe reactions.
Common mosquito-borne diseases include:
An ancient disease, malaria likely originated in Africa. It was described by the Chinese in 2700 BC and the Sumerians in 1700 BC. This disease is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquitoes.
About 40% of the world’s population is at risk for contracting this disease, and between 300 and 500 million cases are reported each year.
With a higher standard of living, mosquito insecticides and the advent of DDT, malaria is no longer the large threat it once was.
Malaria can cause:
- Muscle or abdominal pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Mental confusion
- Night sweats
Malaria can be treated by a medical professional. Treatments can resolve the condition in days to weeks.
2. Mosquito Zika
The Zika virus also emerged from Africa, and it has rapidly spread throughout the western hemisphere and the South Pacific.
The virus is a Flavirus that is related to Yellow Fever, West Nile and the equine encephalitis. It was first discovered in 1947 in monkeys living in the Zika Forest of Uganda.
In 2014, the virus was discovered off the coast of South America, and is now present in 35 countries in the Americas.
Symptoms are often mild and last less than a week in otherwise healthy individuals. Common symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Red eyes
While less common, other people may experience:
- Loss of appetite
The primary concern with this virus is that it can be passed from pregnant women to their unborn fetuses. The infection can cause birth defects, such as severe microcephaly, which causes the skull to collapse.
3. West Nile Virus
The West Nile Virus first emerged in 1936 from Uganda to Europe, central Asia and the Middle East. This virus is also a Flavivirus.
Symptoms of this disease may last a few days, or several weeks, depending on the severity of the infection and the health of the infected person.
At least 63% of patients report experiencing symptoms that last 30 days or more.
There have been 36,437 reported cases of West Nile Virus as of 2014. Among these, 1,538 of the cases were fatal.
About 80% of human cases have very few or no symptoms.
4. Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever has been around for at least 400 years. Currently, it is only found in tropical areas of the Americas and Africa. Travelers rarely catch this illness now, as countries have vaccination requirements and regulations.
About 200,000 cases are reported each year, and 30,000 of those result in death.
A serious arboviral disease, dengue is found in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Its mortality rate is low, but the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable.
Still, the disease is rare, with less than 20,000 cases reported in the U.S. each year.
- High fever
- Muscle and joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
6. Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Aside from the diseases listed above, mosquitoes can also transmit:
- Dog heartworm
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis
- St. Louis Encephalitis
- Western Equine Encephalitis
- LaCrosse Encephalitis
7. Mosquito Bite Allergy
Some lucky people have no reaction to mosquito bites. The bites don’t itch, and they don’t swell.
But some sensitive people have quite the opposite reaction: serious swelling and intense itching. Some even develop hives or more serious allergy symptoms.
Signs of a mosquito allergy include:
- Larger hives
- Blistering lesions
- Joint swelling
- Anaphylaxis (rare)
Now you know why mosquito bites itch, and some of the diseases these insects can spread. How can you treat bites to speed up healing and stop the itch? We’re going to share some natural remedies to put the itching and swelling behind you.
Home Remedies for Mosquito Bites
These natural remedies for mosquito bites will help ease the itching and speed up healing.
Essential Oils for Mosquito Bites
When it comes to bug bites – especially mosquito bites – essential oils are your best friend. A few drops is all you need, and it’s important to dilute these potent oils with a carrier oil, such as:
- Sweet almond
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Ideal for a mosquito bite blister or to soothe itching, lavender has calming, anti-inflammatory properties.
For much-needed mosquito bite relief, lavender should be at the top of your list.
And as an added bonus, lavender also repels many biting and stinging bugs – including mosquitoes – so you can avoid further bites.
We like NOW Foods Lavender oil.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Great for an infected mosquito bite (alongside conventional medical treatment – please see a doctor if you have an infected mosquito bite), tea tree oil has antibacterial properties.
3. Eucalyptus Oil
Known for its skin-soothing properties, eucalyptus oil is great for treating a mosquito bite on the face – or anywhere else.
Like lavender, eucalyptus soothes itching and also repels bugs, so you can avoid future bites and stings.
We like doTERRA eucalyptus oil.
4. NOW Essential Oils Mosquito Repellent Pack
NOW Foods, one of the most respected brands in the alternative health industry, offers a three-pack of essential oils designed to repel mosquitoes.
This pack includes three one-ounce bottles of:
You know how effective citronella can be at repelling mosquitoes – chances are, you have a few citronella candles in your backyard.
Lemongrass and grapefruit also repel mosquitoes, and all three essential oils also help speed up the healing of bites.
5. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint’s uplifting scent does more than invigorate the mind – it can help ease your mosquito bites, too.
Cooling and soothing, peppermint can stop itching dead in its tracks. It smells great, too.
Natural Remedies to Stop Mosquito Bites from Itching
Essential oils are a great way to prevent and treat mosquito bites, but there are other natural remedies you can try, too.
1. Witch Hazel
While witch hazel is best known for its acne-healing properties, it’s also great for bug bites. It reduces pain while easing itching and swelling.
Witch hazel is an astringent, and it gets this property from a natural chemical known as tannin. Tannin can keep bacteria at bay, and it can reduce swelling as well.
To stop the itch, you can apply witch hazel directly to your skin, or you can mix it with baking soda to form a paste and apply to skin.
2. Chamomile and White Tea
Tea bags are great for easing itching and swelling, and they work in similar ways to witch hazel. Black tea contains tannins that help clean the wound while easing swelling.
White tea has anti-inflammatory properties, and its cooling properties can help ease the bite’s itch.
Chamomile is also great for treating mosquito bites. This herb is known for its calming and muscle-relaxing properties. It also has antiseptic, polyphenolic and antioxidant properties.
Just apply either type of tea bag directly to the bite as a poultice, and you’ll experience relief before you know it.
3. Neem Oil
One study found that 95% of mosquito larvae died within 24 hours of being exposed to powdered neem leaf.
Neem oil can do more than just kill mosquitoes – it can help relieve itching and speed up healing of bites, too.
Just apply the oil directly to the skin. Be sure to buy cosmetic grade neem oil – not the kind used in the garden as pest control.
4. Colloidal Oatmeal Bath
If you’ve ever had chicken pox, you probably took an oatmeal bath to soothe the itching. Colloidal oatmeal baths can also be used to ease mosquito bite itching. It also moisturizes the skin thanks to its emollient properties.
The avenanthramides in oats act as powerful antioxidants that ease inflammation and itching.
You can buy colloidal oatmeal, or you can make your own oatmeal bath.
To create your own, mix equal parts:
This will create a paste. The paste can be put onto a washcloth and applied to the bite.
For a homemade oatmeal bath:
- Sprinkle one cup of oatmeal into a warm bath
Soak in the bath for at least 20 minutes. Rub some of the oatmeal clumps onto the bites to provide even more relief.
5. Baking Soda
Want a quick and simple way to ease mosquito bites using something you already have in your kitchen?
Baking soda will do the trick.
Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is alkaline and contains antibacterial properties. It’s often used in natural and homemade cleaning products because it’s so highly effective.
Not only can baking soda help heal your bites faster, but it can help ease the itching, too.
Make a paste, and apply it directly to the bite for best results.
- Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with just enough water to make a paste.
Let the mixture sit on the bite for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.
The herb that makes pasta and pizza taste delicious can also help ease your bug bites. Studies have also shown that this fragrant plant contains certain chemical compounds, like eugenol, that relieve itching skin.
The best way to treat mosquito bites with this herb is to do the following:
- Boil two cups of water
- Add 1/2-ounce of dried basil leaves
Allow the leaves to steep in the water until cool. Next, dip a washcloth into the mixture, and apply to the skin.
If you have fresh basil leaves, you can crush them and place them directly onto the skin.
Honey has long been used as a bug bite remedy, and it’s especially effective for mosquito bites.
This sweet substance has both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Just apply a few drops to your bite, and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing.
Feel free to use any type of honey.
8. Activated Charcoal
Did you know that activated charcoal is often used to treat food poisoning and cleanse the digestive system of toxins?
It’s also found in water filters to remove contaminants.
Its cleansing properties make it an excellent choice for treating mosquito bites, and it can even help soothe itching.
To treat bites, mix:
- One capsule of activated charcoal
- 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil
Dab the mixture onto the bite, and reapply every 30 minutes until the itching stops.
Activated charcoal stains anything and everything it touches, so wrap the bite in a bandage to prevent staining.
Natural remedies can help treat mosquito bites, but prevention is the best way to avoid the many mosquito-borne diseases that threaten your health. Prevention will also help you avoid the frustration and discomfort of having bites in the first place.
How do you prevent mosquito bites?
1. Create Your Own Bug Repellent
Those essential oils you bought to treat your bites can also be used to repel mosquitoes. Making your own homemade bug spray is a great way to keep these bloodsuckers at bay without having to wear products that contain toxic ingredients.
This effective homemade bug spray comes from Dr. Axe, a respected figure in the alternative health industry.
- 1/2-cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2-cup witch hazel
- 40 drops essential oils (lemongrass, tea tree, citronella, eucalyptus, or rosemary)
- Spray bottle
Mix all the ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray on exposed areas of the body (minus the mouth or eyes). You can use a single essential oil, or a combination of the oils listed above.
Mosquitoes also dislike peppermint and ylang ylang, so these are two other oils you can add to your mosquito-repellent cocktail.
2. Get Rid of Standing Water
One of the best ways to keep mosquitoes away from your home is to get rid of any standing water that may be in your yard. Check your water buckets, pool, tires and anything else that can hold water.
If you let water sit for seven days or more, you’re creating the perfect breeding ground for these pests.
Other items that may collect and hold water:
- Bird baths
- Flower pots
- Trash cans
- Clogged gutters
- Sump pump pits
Keeping your yard free of standing water will help keep the mosquitoes away.
3. Avoid the Outdoors after Sunset, or Cover Up
Mosquitoes are the most active between sunset and sunrise, so avoid going outdoors during this time if you can.
If you absolutely must be outdoors, cover up. It may not be fun to wear long pants and long sleeves in the summer, but it certainly beats getting bit a dozen times or more.
Consider spraying your clothes with your natural bug spray, too, to really keep these pests away.
And you can also try lighting citronella candles to keep these bugs at bay.
Also, if you must be outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, consider choosing a breezy spot. A breeze of at least 1 MPH makes it extremely difficult for mosquitoes to fly.
Fans can work just as well if there’s no breeze.
Mosquitoes are pests – there’s no denying that. But you don’t have to suffer through their bites. Use the tips above to create natural, homemade treatments and repellents that will soothe your itching and keep these pests away.