What You Need to Know about Mosquito Bites, Plus Tips & Tricks to Soothe Irritation
Counting the itchy red bumps that dotted our arms and legs was something of a summer ritual when I was a child. Even though there was no reward or relief in having the most mosquito bites, everyone always wanted to be the winner. At the time, things like West Nile virus and Zika weren’t even on my radar. Now that I’m a parent, the sound of mosquitoes buzzing in our ears and the sight of my kids scratching a bug bite sends my worrying tendencies into overdrive.
How big is the risk of a little bug bite?
Honestly, we’re lucky. In many places, like most of North America, mosquitoes are only a seasonal problem. Public health programs and regional climates are pretty effective for mosquito control. You can go the extra mile and arm yourself with more detailed information about diseases spread by mosquitoes and their symptoms.
Keep in mind that mosquitoes aren’t the only bothersome bug out there. Don’t forget about other common culprits:
- Watch out for spiders when you are returning to a summer cottage or cabin that has been sitting vacant, or when you are getting something that has been left in storage for a while — they prefer quiet, undisturbed areas.
- Ticks prefer warm, but shaded, environments such as leaf piles and forest brush. Watch out for them when you are camping, hiking, or even just walking an adventurous dog outdoors.
- Look out for fire ants if you are in the South and Southwestern states — most other types of ants are just a nuisance. Ants do live in colonies and work together as a group and will swarm anywhere there is a food source, indoors or out.
- Watch out for stinging insects like bees and wasps outside during warm weather. They are attracted to bright colors as well as sweet food and drinks because those are the characteristics of the flowers they prefer.
More often than not, the worst after-effect of an insect encounter is just itching and scratching.
Natural DIY relief for itchy bug bites.
Instead of running to the drug store, you can find natural alternatives in your kitchen or garden. Cucumber, basil, and peppermint can all soothe the hot feeling that may accompany a sting or bite and help relieve the itch. Honey, neem oil, and tea tree oil all have healing properties and will help fight infection. Try these home remedies:
- A cool, damp green tea bag will soothe the itch and reduce inflammation.
- Rub a basil leaf on the bite; basil has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Peppermint — a dab of toothpaste, a drop of essential oil, or a fresh leaf straight from the plant can all do the trick.
- Pinching; your brain can only focus on one type of pain at a time so a quick pinch will take your mind off the itch.
If you (or your child) can’t quit scratching, try putting a Band-Aid or invisible tape on the bite. Next time you plan on spending time outdoors, bring a bug repellent with lemon eucalyptus oil — this natural ingredient has been proven effective for repelling mosquitoes and other pests.
When should you seek medical attention?
A raised, red bump at the site of a bite is normal, so is itching and temporary or minor swelling. In most cases, symptoms disappear within a few days and no medical attention is needed.
Allergic reactions or persistent symptoms may require medical treatment. Be on the lookout for these warning signs:
- Wheezing, shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Sensation of the throat closing or difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Faintness, weakness, or loss of consciousness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle spasms
- Rapid heartbeat
Signs of an allergic reaction will appear almost immediately after the bug bite happens. If you are feeling ill days after a bug bite, you should follow up with your doctor. Mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs can transmit diseases to people like Lyme disease or West Nile Virus.
Spare yourself from some of life’s little nuisances by using natural pest prevention where you live, work, and play. Visit our Pest Library for proven ways to get rid of household pests naturally.