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Published on April 05, 2022

closeup of mosquito bite on arm

How to Treat and Avoid Mosquito Bites

Between the buzzing and biting, mosquitoes live up to the name “bug” – and they’re more than an irritation in warmer weather.

These bugs can spread disease, and their bites can lead to allergic reactions. What can you do to stop them?

What Problems Mosquitoes Cause

Most mosquito bites are harmless. But that’s not always the case.

Medically speaking, here are some of the problems mosquitos create:

  • Itchy bumps: When we get a bite, our immune system responds to saliva in the creature. Bumps usually go away after a day or two. Allergic reactions: Some people can have blisters, large hives and in rare cases, a severe allergic reaction that affects the whole body called anaphylaxis.
  • Mosquito-borne diseases: While the most serious diseases mosquitoes carry occur in Africa and other tropical areas, they can spread to the U.S. The most common disease mosquitoes spread in the Midwest is West Nile Virus.

How to Treat a Bite

Cleaning the bite with soap and water is the best first step. Then, treat the itch of a bite with any number of over-the-counter approaches.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends applying a couple of basic treatments:

  • Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes to reduce swelling
  • Apply a paste made from 1 tablespoon baking powder and just enough water to create a paste. Wash off after 10 minutes.

An anti-allergy lotion or medication, like Benadryl, Claritin or Zyrtec, can reduce reactions like a large area that’s red and swollen, hives or low-grade fever, said Jason Knutson, DO, Avera Medical Group family medicine physician.

How to Stop These Bugs

If you want to avoid the issues, make sure to use insect repellent when you go outdoors.

“We recommend repellents that are safe and effective, and EPA-registered ones are good choices,” said Knutson. A good one will have DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

DEET-based repellents range in percentage. Those that are 30% are the best choice – higher levels are not needed.

“With some simple steps, you can keep yourself safe and avoid the annoying bites of mosquitoes,” Knutson said. “If you plan to travel, it’s always a good idea to talk to your provider about possible threats to health.”

See a provider or find an urgent care clinic near you if a bit becomes infected or needs additional attention.

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