Treating Mosquito Bites: How to Ease the Itch

Mosquito bites suck, literally. No child gets through summer without getting bit, a lot. And since kids rarely possess the self control to not scratch 'til they bleed, it's imperative that parents know the best way to treat mosquito bites so they can minimize their little one's discomfort. Here are the steps to take:

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Guide to treating kids' mosquito bitesStart clean and cold. Wash the welt with soap and water to ward off infection, then apply a cold compress or ice, says Jorge Parada, MD, professor of infectious diseases at Loyola University and medical adviser for the National Pest Management Association. This produces a trifecta of benefits: It reduces swelling, itching, and constricts the blood vessels so the mosquito's toxin can't travel as far (result: smaller welts and less itching).

Pop an antihistamine. "Antihistamines like Benadryl decrease the allergic response that leads to swelling and itching," says Parada, who recommends using this medication for 24 to 48 hours, or as long as itchiness persists. The downside: Benadryl can cause drowsiness, so you have a busy day planned and want to avoid a potential meltdown, consider a non-drowsy antihistamine like children's Claritin instead.

Apply chamomile. "This lotion has a natural antihistamine in it," says Parada. Generally hydrocortisone cream isn't a good idea to use regularly since it's a steroid that thins the skin.

Don't scratch the itch! We know this is easier said than done, especially for kids, but it really is true that the more you scratch, the more it'll itch. "When you scratch, it breaks down the protective barrier your body has formed around the toxin," says Parada. "As a result, the toxin leaks into more tissue, leading to more itching." Since kids are bound to scratch anyway, try to minimize the damage by trimming their nails or telling them to rub the area rather than scratch it, since rubbing won't easily break the skin.

Don't worry too much about mosquito-borne disease. Scares about mosquito-borne epidemics always dominate the news, from West Nile virus to chikungunya, a disease that causes joint pain and was first detected in the U.S. this summer. Yet fear of these insect-borne illnesses often spreads faster than the illness itself, says Parada. The odds that your child will catch even one of the most common, West Nile, "is less than 1 in 2000," says Parada. So, there's no reason to stay cooped up at home, although if you notice any worrisome symptoms such as fever, body aches or skin rashes, check with your doctor to be safe.

How do you keep mosquito bites from itching?

Image via Enrique Dans/Flickr; ©iStock.com/vnosokin

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