Unfortunately, if you breathe, you’re a target for the mosquitoes. A mosquito can sense carbon dioxide from your breath up to a distance of several hundred feet. Mosquitoes also target their hosts by sight when they notice movement, by body heat, and by other chemical signals like lactic acid.
Here in the Washington DC area, we are inundated in mosquitoes, particularly this year. The area’s natural geography, climate, and population are all factors on why the mosquito population is booming. We’ve also had a rainy start to summer, which means more mosquito breeding grounds. The mosquitoes hinder enjoyment of the outdoors and time spent outside.
DC Mosquito Squad wants to help prevent mosquito bites before they happen, but we realize many people will endure bad bug bites this season. First it’s important to understand why mosquitoes bite.
How & Why Mosquitoes Bite
A female mosquito bites and draws blood until her abdomen is full in order to produce eggs. After a full blood meal, the female mosquito rests for 2-3 days before laying eggs and then seeking another blood meal.
A mosquito doesn’t bite with teeth, it has a proboscis — a long, pointed mouth-part that pierces the skin. The proboscis contains 2 tubes; 1 for injecting its saliva and another 1 for drawing blood. The mosquito saliva contains a mild painkiller and an anti-coagulant. (Read more fun facts about mosquitoes).
Allergic Reaction & Skin Irritation
The resulting bump on your skin is an allergic reaction to mosquito saliva. Most people have minor allergic reaction, causing the area around the bite to swell and itch. Reaction intensity varies by each individual, but typically lasts no more than 24 hours.
Some people have severe allergic reactions to mosquito bites. “Skeeter Syndrome” is when mosquito bites lead to large areas of swelling and redness, possibly followed by fever, hives and swollen lymph nodes. Children with severe mosquito allergies usually outgrow this within a few years, but it is understandably a big concern to parents and uncomfortable for children. Some people find they are strongly allergic to mosquitoes at any age, and this can be a life-long condition.
There are many bug bite remedies and anti-itch creams available on the market such as calamine lotion. If you have severe allergic reactions to mosquito bites, it is recommended that you first talk with your doctor regarding treatment.
There are many DIY bug bite remedies which can provide relief:
DIY Bug Bite Remedies
1. Essential Oils:
Lavender essential oil is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory and just a small amount applied to the bite can help relieve itching and swelling.
Peppermint oil provides a cooling sensation that can block itching, which can help soothe itchy bites and provide temporary relief.
Important to note: Oils are very powerful and concentrated so just one drop will go a long way. Oils can be reapplied as needed. Educated use is important to maximize effectiveness and avoid any potential skin irritation.
2. Certain Fruits, Veggies & Plants
Banana Peel — Take the peel of a banana and apply the inner portion to your skin and rub over the affected area.
Onion Sap — Take sap from an onion and rub over the affected area.
Raw Potato — Cut a potato in half and apply the inner part of a raw potato on the affected area.
Aloe Plant — Squeeze out an aloe plant leaf and apply the liquid to the affected area.
3. Other Items in your Pantry or Fridge
Honey — Apply honey to the affected area and let it dry and harden. Organic, raw honey is best for relieve itchiness. This can also help soothe burns and other skin irritations.
Oatmeal — Just as an oatmeal bath helps relieve poison ivy or sunburn, it can help soothe bad mosquito bites.
Meat Tenderizer — Mix with water and apply to bite area.
Egg Shell — Crack an egg and use the flexible membrane connected to the shell to coat your bite.
Toasted Tortilla — A hot, dry cloth or a toasted tortilla can provide relief for the itch as well.
Heat can provide relief by removing the toxins produced from the reaction between the mosquito’s saliva and antibodies.
Warm Spoon — Hold a metal spoon under hot water, then remove for about 10 seconds to cool down. Then apply to bite area for up to half a minute.
Whether you are out walking your dog, taking a stroll around the neighborhood or lounging at your pool, be vigilant in keeping the mosquitoes at bay. A little bite could lead to minor itching or severe allergic reaction, plus there is the risk of mosquito-borne disease like West Nile Virus. Keep these DIY bug bite remedies in mind as you battle the bad bugs this summer.