How to Prevent and Treat Mosquito Bites
Soothe your skin with these simple tips.
Prepping skin before you head outdoors is essential year round—Martha even likes to apply her sunscreen right before stepping outside to enhance the product's longevity. As for protecting skin from insects like mosquitoes? With the right precautions, you can stop bites long before they happen, but if you do get bit, it's important to find relief in the aftermath. Ahead, we share expert insight from board-certified dermatologist Dr. Brooke Jackson, M.D., F.A.A.D. of Skin Wellness Dermatology to help prevent and treat a potential mosquito bite.
Plan ahead of time.
When planning for your next outdoor adventure, Dr. Jackson recommends thinking ahead to make sure your skin is protected from these pests. "[They] come out at dusk, so if you know you are going to be outdoors at this time, prepare by wearing long sleeves and pants. And avoid being near standing water," she says.
The foods you eat can also help fend off the insects. "Enjoy some garlic in a meal prior to being outdoors—as this makes you less tasty to mosquitoes," she adds. Using citronella spray can also help, but if you don't want to apply any products on your skin, try lighting citronella candles (they last for about seven to 10 days).
Treat bites immediately.
If you do end up with a mosquito bite, the best plan of action is to treat irritation as soon as possible. "The response above occurs immediately after the bite," Dr. Jackson says. "Female mosquitoes bite to suck blood in order to reproduce. When they bite, our bodies recognize their saliva as a foreign body and we then mount an immune response in an effort to protect ourselves."
The body's response makes a common hive-like bump that acts as a barrier to protect skin. You will likely experience common symptoms from the reaction—formally called histamine—which increases blood and causes the skin to itch.
Try natural and over-the-counter remedies.
One of the quickest ways to treat a mosquito bite is by simply applying ice. "Ice acts as an anesthetic and also will decrease the histamine response," Dr. Jackson shares. "If you can't find ice, use a cool can of sparkling water or soda." As for other at-home remedies? The expert suggests combining oatmeal—an anti-inflammatory—and water to form a paste, and then applying it to the area.
Another method to soothe your irritated skin is to use a topical steroid from the drug store, like hydrocortisone which is both anti-itch and anti-inflammatory. "It has been my experience that most people will end up needing a stronger prescription steroid for relief," she adds. "I advise my patients not to use any steroid for a prolonged period of time and to avoid use on the face." If you notice any reactions like red streaks, fever, chills, or tenderness, call your doctor—they could be signs of a local infection. Dr. Jackson suggests seeing a board-certified dermatologist for evaluation and treatment if this occurs.