How to stop bug bites from itching

Everyone knows the unmistakable itch that a nasty mosquito bite can leave behind. And while you might be tempted to scratch it for relief, Melissa Piliang, M.D. explains why, scratching is the last thing you want to do.

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CLEVELAND – Everyone knows the unmistakable itch that a nasty mosquito bite can leave behind.

And while we might be tempted to scratch it for relief, according to Melissa Piliang, M.D., a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, scratching is the last thing we want to do.

“Really the worst thing you can do is scratch a mosquito bite,” said Dr. Piliang. “Because when the mosquito bites, its releases histamine and histamine causes itching. The more you scratch, the more histamine that gets released and the more it itches.”

Instead of scratching, Dr. Piliang recommends putting hydrocortisone on the bite. Doing so two to three times per day can help kill the itch and will also help it heal faster.

Chamomile lotion can also help relieve itching.

Dr. Piliang said that continually scratching a mosquito bite puts us at risk of scratching off the outer layer of the skin.

For those who do accidentally scratch through the skin, to avoid the risk of infection, Dr. Piliang recommends keeping the area clean and covering it with an antibiotic ointment and bandage until it heals.

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If it gets bigger and gets tender after a few days, it’s time to seek medical attention.

Dr. Piliang said people will often try putting all sorts of things on bug bites, including alcohol, witch hazel and even toothpaste. She said all these items will do is dry out the skin and make it itch even more.

However, there is one lesser-known trick that can help ease the itch.

“A good alternative is to grab a piece of ice and put it right on that itchy bite,” said Dr. Piliang. “Ice kills itch. If you’re at the pool, you probably have a cooler with ice in it or a cold drink you can put right on there and that will really kill that itch.”

Experts don’t know why, but some people are more allergic to mosquito bites than others.

Dr. Piliang said prevention is best and recommends using a product with DEET before heading outside.

Also, for those who plan on hiking in a wooded area or being outside at dusk, it’s best to cover up the skin with pants and long sleeves to shield it from both mosquitoes and ticks.

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