Relief From Itchy Skin From Mosquitoes

Be a happy camper by using mosquito repellent to help prevent itchy welts.

Photo: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

You can watch fireflies at dusk, picnic by the lake or take a stroll at sunset. Yeah, summer's great, until you notice those ugly red welts on your arms and legs. Not only do mosquito bites itch like hell, they can also give you some nasty diseases, like West Nile virus and malaria. However, you don't have to spend the summer inside. Instead, beat mosquitoes with these tried-and-true tricks.

Mosquito Bite Basics

Only female mosquitoes bite, because they need blood to produce eggs. When a mosquito bites, she injects saliva into the wound, which prevents your blood from immediately clotting. The itchy red welt that springs up on your skin is actually a reaction to proteins in the mosquito's saliva, not a reaction to the bite. Some people tend to attract more mosquitoes; scientists aren't sure why this happens. Yet, if you don't get bitten much, consider yourself lucky.

Instant Mosquito Bite Relief

Yeah, mosquito bites itch, but it's best not to scratch. Scratching your bites just irritates them more, plus they could get infected. Instead, wash the bite with soap and water and hold an ice cube over it for 10 minutes. The ice numbs the bite and deadens the itch (and feels great on hot days, too). If the bite still itches, swab it with a diphenhydramine or hydrocortisone itch stick. If you have a ton of bites, take an oral antihistamine, like Benadryl.

What Not to Do

Don't scratch mosquito bites. Yeah, it's tough to keep your hands off, but scratching transmits bacteria to the bite and irritates the wound. This can lead to a secondary infection and scarring; these things are totally not worth the momentary relief you get from scratching. See a doctor if you think you might have an infection.

Avoiding Mosquito Bites

Wearing light-colored clothing makes you less attractive to mosquitoes. Long sleeves and pants help protect your skin. Don't forget socks and shoes, too; those ankle bites are the worst. Topical repellents that contain DEET also help prevent bites, but these repellents can be dangerous, so read the directions carefully and wash them off once you're inside. Finally, consider staying inside between dusk and dawn, because mosquitoes are in full force during this time.

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