17 Natural Mosquito-Bite Remedies That Are Already in Your House
Not everyone feels comfortable slathering themselves with DEET every time they walk outside the house during the warmer months. But if you tend to bypass the bug spray, you run into a very real risk of getting mosquito bites — and that's a one-way ticket to you frantically searching for "natural mosquito-bite remedies" on the internet when the pesky itching strikes.
If you're wondering how to get rid of mosquito bites overnight (fair), be aware that doesn't really happen. However, you can get mosquito-bite relief fast with things laying around your home. Of course, if you'd rather shop for anti-itch products, experts suggest hitting your local drugstore. "An over-the-counter anti-itch cream that contains 1% hydrocortisone can help — it has anti-inflammatory effects in the skin," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at The Mount Sinai Hospital.
But when it's late at night and you want to get rid of mosquito bites fast — or, at least, the itch — you need to work with what you've got. Fortunately, there are plenty of home remedies for bug bites that itch and swell. Here's how to treat mosquito bites on legs, and other areas of your body, with more natural remedies. Ahead lies the key to your mosquito-bite relief.
This hack is simple: Just apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton pad or ball and hold it against the bite for a few seconds. "It evaporates quickly, providing a cooling effect," says board-certified dermatologist Ife J. Rodney, M.D., founding director of Eternal Dermatology Aesthetics and professor of dermatology at Howard University and George Washington University. "It also has some astringent and antiseptic properties to reduce infection and inflammation." That astringent effect can also help dry out any excess fluid that builds up around the bite, Dr. Zeichner says.
"If you get a mosquito bite, you can apply ice to the area," Dr. Zeichner says. This can either involve directly putting ice on the bite or placing it in a baggie and using a tea towel in between to make the cold feel less intense. "The cold temperature constricts blood vessels, reduces inflammation, and physically masks the itch," he explains.
Applying citrus juice, like juice from a lemon or lime, may help with the itch. "Citrus juice contains vitamin C, which is essential for wound healing and is anti-inflammatory," Dr. Rodney says. But this isn't for everyone due to its acid content, Dr. Rodney warns (it can burn). Keep this in mind, too: You'll want to cover the bite when you go in the sun. Otherwise, you run the risk of phytophotodermatitis, which is a sensitivity to the sun where the juice hit your skin.
Baking soda paste
You can try mixing a paste of baking soda and water, before applying it directly to the bite. "Baking soda contains anti-inflammatory properties," Dr. Rodney says. "The alkalinity of baking soda can neutralize the irritants, reducing itchiness and inflammation."
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. "That is why it is used for a variety of skin conditions," Dr. Zeichner says adds. The oil can reduce itching and the risk of infection, per Dr. Rodney. "However, it's quite strong and should be diluted," she explains. Her recommendation? Mix it into something like vitamin E, coconut oil, or olive oil before applying it to the bite.
You can experience the same cooling flavor you get from a mint toothpaste on your skin, Dr. Zeichner says. "It may temporarily mask any itching sensation," he says. Just apply a dab to your bite and let it get to work.
Salt water, like baking soda, has sodium, which can help reduce irritation, Dr. Rodney explains. "The water also cleans the bite, removing the mosquito saliva that leads to inflammation." To make salt water at home, add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water. You can then dab it on with a washcloth or rinse your bite with it.
A bug bite is technically a wound, Dr. Rodney points out. And "aloe is excellent for wound healing, as the thick consistency soothes the skin and reduces the need to scratch it," she says. "It also contains vitamins like E, which can help reduce infections and itching." Another perk: Aloe contains polysaccharides that coat the surface of the skin to protect the bite and let it heal, Dr. Zeichner explains.
Apple cider vinegar
Applying apple cider vinegar to the bite with a cotton swab can help ease the itch. "Apple cider vinegar is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory to reduce inflammation in the bite," Dr. Zeichner says. It also "has similar properties to citrus, which helps with wound healing," Dr. Rodney explains. Apple cider vinegar may even help dry out the bite and reduce itching, she adds.
Oatmeal — and colloidal oatmeal in particular — is used as a skin protectant in conditions where the skin barrier is disrupted, like eczema, Dr. Zeichner says. So it can also be useful for those pesky mosquito bites. "It contains anti-inflammatory properties and soothing vitamins and minerals," Dr. Rodney says. You can create a paste by mixing plain oatmeal with water and applying it directly to the bite.
"Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects to soothe the bite itself," Dr. Zeichner says. Two ingredients in particular, bisabolol and chamazulene, have been shown to help calm skin and provide relief from discomfort, per Dr. Rodney. If you have chamomile tea handy, you can steep the bag, squeeze out the excess water, and apply the bag directly to your bite for relief.
A warm compress
Doing something as simple as applying a warm compress to your skin can help soothe your itch. "A warm compress cleans and calms the skin, reducing inflammation and itching temporarily," Dr. Rodney says. Just wet a washcloth with warm water, wring it out, and apply it to your bite.
Topical arnica gel may help with your itch. "Arnica is thought to help enhance wound healing and calm inflamed skin," Dr. Zeichner says. The plant has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, noting that it can help reduce swelling and pain, per Dr. Rodney. Just apply a dab to your bite.
Witch hazel is an astringent. "It contains tannins that can help reduce itching and inflammation," Dr. Rodney says. "It also has a cooling effect, providing temporary relief from bites." Witch hazel also may help dry out your bite, Dr. Zeichner says.
Rubbing a little petroleum jelly on your bite may provide just the kind of relief you're looking for. "Petroleum jelly forms a protective seal over the skin to allow the bite to heal up from the inside out," Dr. Zeichner says. It also infuses moisture which may help reduce itch, Dr. Rodney explains.
Clear Nail Polish
Clear nail polish is also said to provide some quick relief from mosquito bites, per the Mosquito Squad, a mosquito control service based in North Carolina. "It may sound weird, but I've tried it multiple times, and it really helps," says Gemma Cartwright, former senior editor for POPSUGAR UK. "The skin must be unbroken, though. If you've scratched the top off the bite, leave it alone. The ingredients in the polish, plus the fact it's been exposed to air and bacteria via the brush, mean it is best kept away from broken skin."
Apparently, Vicks VapoRub ($25 for 2-pack) isn't just for relieving cold and flu symptoms. Putting a dab of the ointment on your mosquito bite can also provide some serious relief. "Three of the ingredients (menthol, camphor, and thymol) are topical analgesics," NY-based dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD, previously told POPSUGAR. "They create a cooling sensation and stop the itching."
— Additional reporting by Jenny Sugar