Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch? Plus 10 Tips for Itch Relief (2023)

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Mosquito saliva can trigger histamine production. Certain at-home remedies, such as applying honey or corticosteroid cream, may help relieve the itch. But some popular remedies can increase skin irritation.

Many people get bitten by mosquitos each year, but bites can affect people differently. When mosquitoes bite, they draw out blood while injecting some of their saliva. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant and proteins.

The proteins are foreign substances that trigger the body’s immune system. To fight them the body’s immune system releases histamine, a compound that helps white blood cells get to the affected area. Histamine is what causes the itchiness, inflammation, and swelling.

Sometimes if a person is bitten for the first time they won’t have a response. This is because their body hasn’t formulated a response to the foreign invader. And some people may not notice bites at all. Others may build up a tolerance over time.

When an irritating bite does appear, it’s good to know what remedies work to ease the itchiness.


Why do mosquito bites itch more after you scratch them?



When you scratch a mosquito bite, this causes the skin to become even more inflamed. Since inflammation causes your skin to itch, you can get into a cycle where scratching will cause even more of an itchy sensation. In addition, by continuing to scratch you run the risk of breaking the skin and causing an infection, leading to even more of an itch.

Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COIAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

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It may take a little experimentation to see what works best for you and your bite. Most of these remedies can be used as many times as needed to soothe the area. For medications, follow the instructions on the bottle.

If you catch the bite soon after the mosquito bites you, quickly wipe the bite with rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol has a cooling effect when it dries, which may relieve itching. Avoid using too much alcohol as it can irritate the skin.

Honey is an antiseptic and antibacterial ingredient that also has wound healing properties. It’s shown to reduce inflammation and can also help prevent infection. Don’t wear it outside, though, because the honey’s sugar can attract more mosquitoes.

Read more: Honey for allergies »

Oatmeal has active properties that help soothe insect bites and allergic reactions, chicken pox, and dry skin. You can add oatmeal to a bath or apply it as a mask on your bug bite. Make a paste by adding a little water to colloidal oatmeal and apply to the affected area. Wash it off with warm water after 15 minutes. You can also add honey to your paste for extra benefits. Moisturize with a cream after.

Green and black tea’s antiswelling effects may not just be useful for swollen eyes. Tea’s anti-inflammatory effects may help with the swelling. Soak a bag of green or black tea and pop it in the fridge to cool it down. Apply the cold tea bag over the bite to ease the itchiness.

Basil has chemical compounds that can relieve itchy skin. You can apply basil oil like a lotion or make your own at home. To make your own rub, boil 2 cups of water and 1/2 an ounce of dried basil leaves. After the mixture cools, dip a washcloth into the pot and apply it on the affected area. For a more immediate treatment, chop up fresh basil leaves and rub them on your skin.

Antihistamines help lower the histamine count in your body and reduce inflammation. These are available over the counter and help with itchiness and swelling. You can take them orally (Benadryl or Claritin) or apply topically (calamine lotion) over the affected area.

Lidocaine and benzocaine are numbing agents in over-the-counter creams. They offer temporary relief from itchiness and pain. For extra benefits, look for creams that contain menthol or peppermint.

Aloe vera gel is shown to have anti-inflammatory properties for wound healing and calming infections. The cool feeling of the gel may also soothe any itchiness. Keep an aloe vera plant around the house. You can cut the leaves and apply the gel directly.

Doctors recommend corticosteroid creams for itching. These creams are known to help with inflammation for skin irritations, but avoid using them on open wounds or on your face. Long-term use can also cause side effects like thinning or worsening of skin, excessive hair growth, and acne.

Some creams use garlic extract due to its wound healing and anti-viral properties. But don’t rub garlic directly on your skin. Raw garlic can increase skin irritation and inflammation. Instead, dilute minced garlic with coconut oil and apply that to the affected area for a few minutes.

These home remedies could increase skin irritation or cause unwanted side effects such as acne, burning, dry skin, and more.

  • baking soda
  • lemon or lime juice
  • toothpaste
  • vinegar

If your bite causes anaphylaxis seek medical attention. Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening condition. You can tell if someone is having this reaction if they:

  • break out in hives
  • start wheezing
  • have difficulty breathing
  • feel as if their throat is closing up

Someone in anaphylactic shock will need an EpiPen injection. But anaphylactic shock for a mosquito bite is rare and more commonly caused by other stinging insects.

Read more: First aid for bites and stings »

For other people, mosquito bites can cause more serious symptoms, such as:

  • blisters,
  • lesions
  • hives
  • high fever
  • swelling in the joints

See a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms along with your mosquito bite. An antihistamine like cetirizine, fexofenadine or loratadine, are all available over the counter. These medications may help curb these bodily responses.

If you’ll be traveling to certain countries, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Seeing a doctor is also important if you’ve been living or traveling in certain areas of the world where bloodborne diseases like Zika and malaria are common. Mosquitos can spread these diseases from person to person. There are vaccines available for some of these diseases.

A mosquito bite can last for hours to a few days. The length of a mosquito bite and its symptoms vary depending on the size of the bite and the person’s immune system. Itching or scratching the bite can increase the length of time it lasts.

Sometimes mosquito bites leave small dark marks long after the itching and bite itself have faded. People with sensitive skin tend to have these lingering marks, but they don’t have to be permanent. To avoid hyperpigmentation, look for creams with vitamin C, E, or niacinamide. Don’t forget to apply SPF 30 sunscreen on areas exposed to the sun.

The best way to avoid mosquito bites is preparation and prevention. Use insect repellant if you are going to places where mosquitos are. Natural insect repellants are effective, but you may want to use commercial ones if you are traveling to another country.

Limiting or avoiding exposure to certain things may help minimize your risk for mosquito bites. Below is a list of things known to attract mosquitos:

  • sweat and body odor
  • light
  • heat
  • lactic acid
  • carbon dioxide

Alcohol intake is also shown to be associated with a higher probability of being bitten. You may want to avoid drinking the night before you’ll be in an area with mosquitos. It may also be a good idea to keep some travel-size aloe vera and alcohol wipes handy.

Keep reading: 10 natural ingredients that double as mosquito repellants »


What makes your mosquito bites stop itching? ›

Wash the area with soap and water. Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and itching. Reapply ice pack as needed. Apply a mixture of baking soda and water, which can help reduce the itch response.

Why does itching a mosquito bite make it itch more? ›

WHY DO MOSQITO BITES ITCH MORE AFTER YOU SCRATCH THEM? When you scratch a mosquito bite, this causes the skin to become even more inflamed. Since inflammation causes your skin to itch, you can get into a cycle where scratching will cause even more of an itchy sensation.

Why can't I stop itching my mosquito bites? ›

A mosquito bite triggers the immune system to release histamine, which causes the familiar itchy bumps. Scratching mosquito bites can lead to skin infection. Simple home remedies, over-the-counter antihistamines, and steroid creams can help soothe the urge to itch.

What happens if you itch a mosquito bite too much? ›

Scratching mosquito bites just makes them itch more and increases the risk of developing a skin infection. If you scratch too much and break the skin open, a bacterial skin infection can develop, which will require a visit to urgent care or UnityPoint Clinic - Express,” Becker says.

How long should it take for mosquito bites to stop itching? ›

Most mosquito bites itch for 3 or 4 days. Any pinkness or redness lasts 3 or 4 days. The swelling may last 7 days. Bites of the upper face can cause severe swelling around the eye.

Does toothpaste stop mosquito bite itch? ›

Toothpaste is a great treatment to help fight the annoying itch after a mosquito bite. The menthol flavor from the toothpaste acts as a cooling agent, keeping your mind distracted from the urge to scratch.

How many times can one mosquito bite you? ›

There is no limit to the number of mosquito bites one of the insects can inflict. A female mosquito will continue to bite and feed on blood until she is full. After they have consumed enough blood, the mosquito will rest for a couple of days (usually between two to three days) before laying her eggs.

Why do mosquitoes bite ankles? ›

Your Feet Stink

The short answer as to why mosquitoes go after feet and ankles is that our feet often carry a strong odor. Yes, stinky feet attract mosquitoes.

What is inside mosquito bites? ›

Mosquito bites can cause severe illnesses if the insects carry certain viruses or parasites. Infected mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus, Zika virus, and the viruses that cause malaria, yellow fever and some types of brain infection.

Is Vicks good for mosquito bites? ›

have to rub it all over, just apply small dabs on your ankles, wrists, neck, inner elbows, knees and behind your ears. The smell of the menthol in it will repel the insects away. You can also rub it on any mosquito bites you may already have and it will relieve the itching.

Why do I get so many mosquito bites on my legs? ›

Some mosquito species are leg and ankle biters; they cue into the stinky smell of bacteria on your feet. Other species prefer the head, neck and arms perhaps because of the warmth, smells emitted by your skin, and closeness to carbon dioxide released by your mouth.

Can mosquitoes bite through clothes? ›

Though they prefer direct access to blood, mosquitoes can bite through clothes if the fabric is thin and tight fitting. The pests' needle-like mouthparts pierce delicate cotton t-shirts with ease.

Can scratching a mosquito bite make it spread? ›

Rather than relieving the itching, scratching an already inflamed area increases inflammation. This makes the area even itchier. Scratching may also increase the risk of infection if it breaks the skin. If the area becomes infected, it will be much itchier and will take longer to heal.

What is the clear liquid that comes out of a mosquito bite? ›

When a mosquito bites you, she releases saliva that can cause clotting and scabbing. Many people are allergic to the substances contained in the mosquito's saliva, which is why they start to itch and develop small welts.

What can I put on a bite to stop itching? ›

For bites that itch, apply an ice pack or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone. Another option is to take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine. To reduce swelling, apply an ice pack to the bite.

Why do my mosquito bites itch worse at night? ›

With mosquito bites, cortisol is what fights the inflammatory response that causes itchiness. When cortisol levels are lower, itchiness increases. "Most people itch more at night because our cortisol levels are higher in the morning and also because we are less distracted as we wind down and try to fall asleep," Dr.

Why do my mosquito bites itch for weeks? ›

Skeeter syndrome is diagnosed when you have a strong reaction to a mosquito bite. You may see a large area of swelling, soreness, redness, and itching or pain at the location of the bite. Such a reaction can develop within hours of the bite, and it may last for weeks.

Does hydrogen peroxide stop mosquito bites itching? ›

Soak a cotton ball with three percent of hydrogen peroxide and rub it onto the affected area, in order to reduce itching and pain. Use hand sanitizer to prevent further infection.

What does Vaseline do to mosquito bites? ›

Applying petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) is an easy way to bring down itching while you wait to treat bites more efficiently. “It forms a protective seal over the skin that allows the barrier to repair itself, especially if you've been scratching,” Dr.

Do mosquito bites go away faster if you don't scratch? ›

These scars can take months or longer to heal, and some may never completely resolve.” So, she says, “moisturize it and leave it alone.” Seriously. The bottom line: The best way to heal mosquito bites fast is to avoid scratching them.

Why did a mosquito bite me 10 times? ›

A female mosquito can bite multiple times and will continue to feed on humans blood until she is full. If she gets interrupted by movements of the host before she is full, she will attempt to feed again from another host (animal or human) to get a sufficient amount of blood in order to develop and nourish their eggs.

Can you get two mosquito bites in a row? ›

Number. A person may have just one or multiple mosquito bites. If they do have multiple, the pattern is usually random and not in a line.

Is it bad to let mosquitoes bite you? ›

Mosquito saliva can transmit diseases

They're also a way for serious germs, such as West Nile or Zika virus, to invade and spread. Mosquito-borne illness is a fairly rare occurrence in the U.S., but even a slight risk still warrants taking steps to prevent mosquito bites as much as possible.

Why do mosquitoes bite females? ›

Mosquito bites come solely from females, who rely on the protein in human blood for egg production. Male mosquitoes survive on nectar for nourishment.

How can I be less attractive to mosquitoes? ›

Wear long, loose clothing in light colors like white, cream, and tan to make yourself less of a mosquito target. Spray insect repellents like DEET or picaridin on your skin to keep mosquitoes away. Use unscented body wash and shampoo to smell less attractive to mosquitoes.

Why don t mosquitoes bite the face? ›

Mosquito larvae live in stagnant pools of water, and adult mosquitoes hang out in weeds, tall grass, and bushes. These things are much more likely to be low to the ground, so the mosquitoes are closer to your legs and arms than your face.

Can you squeeze out a mosquito bite? ›

Blisters. If you develop blisters after being bitten by an insect, don't burst them because they may become infected. Blisters don't usually cause pain unless they rupture (burst) and expose the new skin underneath. If possible, use an adhesive bandage (plaster) to protect the blistered area.

What is the yellow stuff coming out of my mosquito bite? ›

Bug bite infection symptoms vary according to the type of infection and its severity, as well as what organism caused the bite. A severe infection might show significant yellow drainage. Sometimes, the pus-like material collects underneath the skin to form an abscess .

Why do I get bitten so much? ›

If you feel like mosquitoes bite you more often than other people, you may be onto something! Several specific factors can attract mosquitoes, including the carbon dioxide you exhale, your body odor, and your body temperature. A combination of these factors likely makes certain people more attractive to mosquitoes.

Does vinegar keep mosquitoes away? ›

Vinegar as a bug repellent. Vinegar is one of the best ingredients to make a pest control spray. Vinegar is one of the best ingredients to make a pest control spray. It is effective in repelling ants, mosquitoes, fruit flies, and many others.

Does Benadryl help with mosquito bites? ›

If you are allergic to mosquito bites, the reaction will stay in the area of the bite. Reach for a cold compress, antihistamine such as Benadryl, and 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for itch relief.

Can you put apple cider vinegar on mosquito bites? ›

It can help reduce both the burning and itching sensation. *Make sure you get the apple cider vinegar with the mother. How to do this: Simply dab a bit of apple cider vinegar on the mosquito bite. If you need more relief or have multiple bug bites, you can dilute some apple cider vinegar with water and take a bath.

Do bananas attract mosquitoes? ›

The average pre-ingestion count was 8.0 mosquito contacts. Thus, the increased contacts after banana ingestion represent an increase of 165% at 1 h and 79% increase at 2 h. Conversely, the ingestion of grapes did not result in a significant difference in number of mosquito contacts compared to pre-ingestion levels.

What foods repel mosquitoes? ›

Garlic, onions, and apple cider vinegar, when consumed, are said to change the way you smell and make you less detectable to mosquitoes. Tomatoes, beans, and lentils as well as other foods rich in thiamine are said to release a smell that repels mosquitoes and other bugs.

What can I put on my legs to prevent mosquito bites? ›

Peppermint oil is a natural insecticide and a mosquito repellent, according to the American College of Healthcare Sciences, based in Portland, Oregon. You can mix this oil with other scents, like lemon, and rub them onto your skin for a minty scent.

Can mosquitoes bite through hair? ›

Anything that you can't thread a piece of hair through (like denim jeans, for example) is impenetrable to mosquitoes.

What color attracts mosquitoes the most? ›

Yes, color may attract mosquitoes. Dark-colored clothing, such as black, navy, blue or red – when combined with movement and breath – make it easier for these insects to find you.

What happens if you don't scratch an itch? ›

Yes, it really does make itching worse

Serotonin reacts with neuronal receptors that carry itch signals to the brain, making itching worse.

What kills mosquitoes? ›

Use an indoor insect fogger or indoor insect spray to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest. These products work immediately, and may need to be reapplied. When using insecticides, always follow label directions. Only using insecticide will not keep your home free of mosquitoes.

Why do I react so badly to mosquito bites? ›

Skeeter syndrome is a large local allergic reaction to mosquito bites marked by significant inflammation. If you have it, you're allergic to substances in the mosquito's saliva. Some people have so much swelling that they have trouble moving.

Why do my mosquito bites get so big? ›

Allergic reactions and emergency symptoms

Significantly larger mosquito bites, especially if they're bigger than a quarter, may be one of the symptoms of a more severe allergic reaction. These symptoms can include: large area of itching.

Why is pus coming out of my mosquito bite? ›

An insect bite that develops infection can lead to: pus inside or around the bite. swollen glands. fever.

Does vinegar stop bites itching? ›

Avoid traditional home remedies, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, as they're unlikely to help.

Why does toothpaste help itchy bites? ›

Toothpaste Why it Works: A dab of toothpaste on the bite will act as an astringent, drawing itchy venom from the wound as it dries. Menthol in the toothpaste will also provide a “cooling” sensation that will occupy the nerves in the same way ice does, relieving discomfort.

Does vinegar stop itching? ›

Dabbing undiluted apple cider vinegar directly onto a bug bite works wonders. The acids help neutralize the itch while the pH balancing affects speed up healing.

Does vinegar help mosquito bites? ›

To treat a mosquito bite with vinegar, simply dab a drop of vinegar on the affected area to reduce stinging and burning sensations. A bonus is that vinegar is a natural disinfectant, which can help prevent further damage to the skin if the wound has opened.

Does alcohol help mosquito bites? ›

Rubbing Alcohol, Calamine Lotion, and Other OTC Creams Can Help Relieve the Itch. First of all, try your best not to scratch your itchy bug bite. That will only further inflame the lesion, and make the itching, swelling, and irritation worse, Day says. Instead, he recommends dabbing the bite with rubbing alcohol.

Why does scratching an itchy bite make it worse? ›

Rather than relieving the itching, scratching an already inflamed area increases inflammation. This makes the area even itchier. Scratching may also increase the risk of infection if it breaks the skin. If the area becomes infected, it will be much itchier and will take longer to heal.

Does hydrogen peroxide help itchy bites? ›

Soak a cotton ball with three percent of hydrogen peroxide and rub it onto the affected area, in order to reduce itching and pain. Use hand sanitizer to prevent further infection. Take a drop of sanitizer, and apply it onto the bite; leave it on for a few minutes.

What does hydrogen peroxide do to mosquito bites? ›

“I am highly attractive to mosquitoes and often get a dozen bites when others get one. Years ago, I was told to rub hydrogen peroxide on the bites as soon as possible. This alleviates itching within minutes! The key is to apply the peroxide with a cotton ball right after the bite.”

Does Vicks Vaporub prevent mosquito bites? ›

have to rub it all over, just apply small dabs on your ankles, wrists, neck, inner elbows, knees and behind your ears. The smell of the menthol in it will repel the insects away. You can also rub it on any mosquito bites you may already have and it will relieve the itching.

What dries out mosquito bites? ›

Baking soda.

This can help dry out the bite and tamp down on inflammation, Dr. Goldenberg says. To use it, mix baking soda with a few drops of water to make a paste. Then, dab it on your bite.


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