Mosquito bites are a common side-effect of a Mediterranean summer or a tropical adventure further afield. The majority of mosquito bites simply cause a little discomfort and a small, red lump or swelling that itches.
However, mosquito bites do affect different individuals in different ways, and some people experience more severe symptoms of swelling and itching than others.
In this article, we’ll break down the science of why mosquito bites cause swelling. Then, we’ll look at different methods of treating mosquito bites. Finally, we’ll give our advice on how you can prevent mosquito bites.
Why do mosquito bites itch?
Mosquitos don’t just suck your blood when they give you a bite; they also put some of their saliva inside the wound. Mosquito saliva has proteins which stop your blood clotting, so they get a long drink without scabbing getting in the way.
Because mosquito salvia is alien to the human body, the immune system begins to attack it by releasing histamine. Histamine is the same chemical the body releases when it experiences an allergic reaction, which is why the uncomfortable symptoms of a mosquito bite share a resemblance with an allergic response. Most people experience swelling, soreness and itchiness after suffering a mosquito bite.
Potential solutions for mosquito bites
Humans have dealt with mosquito bites for 1000s of years. As a result, there are many methods you can try at home.
Clean the bite and apply surgical spirit to the wound with a cotton pad. Although you’ll experience a stinging sensation for a couple of seconds, that will subside, and due to the drying effect of the surgical spirit, the itching will too.
Honey is a natural antibacterial which has anti-inflammatory properties. However, don’t use honey if you intend to head back outside, as insects will be attracted to the sweetness.
Aloe vera gel, either bought or from within an aloe vera leaf, has cooling properties which can reduce swelling.
Basil leaves contain chemicals which work as a natural balm to resolve feelings of itchiness and skin discomfort. Make a rub with blended basil leaves and a neutral oil to soothe the skin. As a bonus, basil oil will likely make you smell lovely!
Garlic has natural anti-inflammatory compounds. However, a minced garlic bulb on its own is too potent to accelerate healing and may exacerbate skin irritation. Combine minced garlic with a neutral oil to create a salve for mosquito bites.
How to prevent mosquito bites
The best way to stop mosquito bites itching is by avoiding them altogether.
Techniques to prevent mosquito bites include:
Mosquitos are attracted to pheromones in sweat. Clean up before the evening to minimise this.
Mosquitos rarely bite through clothes.
Insects are attracted to light, so turning off or dimming lights can help to avoid mosquito bites.
Last updated: 1 April 2021