6 Ways You’re Actually Making Your Bug Bites Worse

It takes a surprising amount of willpower to resist scratching those irritating, red bumps we call mosquito bites. Even then, sometimes you just have to give in and scratch, and scratch some more, until your heart’s content. Unfortunately, though, the relief that scratching provides is short-lived, and may even make the itchiness worse in the long-run (bummer!).


And why are mosquito bites so itchy anyway? It isn’t because of mosquitoes’ suckers, and it definitely isn’t because of the bite itself, it’s actually due to your own immune system. 

Turns out, when a female mosquito bites you—because male mosquitoes don’t bite humans—they inject saliva into your blood stream to prevent clotting. But our bodies don’t exactly like their protein-filled saliva, so in response they produce histamines. Which is why you’re left with an itchy, red bump just hours later.

Once the itchiness fully settles in, what are you supposed to do? Since scratching isn’t exactly an option. Maybe the ole standby—topical creams—will help? Or maybe a few creative remedies will do the trick? It’s tough to say. Unfortunately some of the most popular options out there may actually make the itch even worse (yikes!). Things like:

1.    A soothing soak.

While there’s no doubt that a nice warm bath with your favorite bath bomb or a calming hot shower is the perfect way to end a stressful day, it’s just going to irritate your mosquito bite. That’s because hot water strips the moisture from your skin, and dry skin equals itchy skin.

2.    Applying antibacterial treatments.

This is definitely a no-brainer when it comes to an injury, like a cut or scrape, but antibacterial treatments aren’t designed to do much for a mosquito bite (except clean it). Plus, common options, like rubbing alcohol, will further dry out the skin and amplify itchiness.

3.    Using a lot of topical cream.

As effective as antihistamines can be in minimizing the symptoms of allergies—including bug bites—you can have too much of a good thing. So the next time you have a mosquito bite, don’t just lather on the antihistamine cream as you may develop a sensitivity to it (causing more itchy, red bumps).

4.    Trying some alternative options.

People definitely get creative when it comes to treating mosquito bites. Everything from putting saliva on them to making “x” indentations have been said to work, but chances are you’ll just end up making yourself more susceptible to infection. After all, scratching or making indentations may puncture your skin, and using your saliva could be bad news since it isn’t exactly bacteria-free.

5.    Going all natural.

Essential oils, honey and other botanicals continue to become more and more popular, but it’s important to use them with caution. For instance, honey has been shown to have antibacterial properties, but not antihistamine or anti-inflammatory properties (which is what you need for mosquito bites). Furthermore, essential oils or herbs (like basil) can help to minimize itch, but the results vary from person to person.

6.    You assume it’s a mosquito bite.

If you have a new itchy, red bump—and it’s summer—it’s safe to assume that it’s a mosquito bite—right? While that’s a fair guess, there are a ton of other causes that you may be overlooking, like eczema, heat rash, contact dermatitis, sun allergy, staph, another type of bug bite or something else entirely.

So if you try a cold compress and/or a topical steroid cream (i.e. cortisone)—some of the best ways to combat the itchiness of a mosquito bite—and it doesn’t get any better, or you notice additional symptoms, like nausea, fever, headache, weakness or shortness of breath, it’s time to see a healthcare provider. That’s why the experts at ChoiceOne Urgent Care are available seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., to get you through all of summer’s illnesses and injuries. 

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