If that’s not enough, try actual ice. The Mayo Clinic recommends straight-up rubbing an ice cube over the bite for 30 seconds to soothe the area. It will only feel better temporarily, but some immediate relief (if short-lived) is still nice when all you can think about is scratching the hell out of your skin.
3. Slather on an anti-itch cream.
There should be plenty of over-the-counter itch-relief cream options at your local drugstore. You can try an antihistamine cream that contains diphenhydramine (like Benadryl), which tackles that itchy feeling head-on, or you can reach for a topical hydrocortisone cream (like Cortisone-10), which helps to reduce inflammation and irritation, Dr. Wassef says.
Calamine lotion, which is made of zinc and iron oxide, may soothe your skin, too, thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of zinc oxide.3 Pramoxine hydrochloride and cooling menthol are two other ingredients you can find in OTC products (like this Cerave Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream) that can minimize that must-scratch feeling.
4. Make a DIY paste to calm the skin.
Can’t trek to the store? The Mayo Clinic suggests this mosquito bite home remedy: a homemade paste made of baking soda. Baking soda has anti-inflammatory properties, Dr. Rodney points out. Just add a few drops of water to some baking soda until you get a creamy consistency. Then, dab it on the bite and leave it there. You can reapply the paste three times a day until you feel better.
5. Take an oral antihistamine.
If topical medications aren’t doing it for you, popping an oral antihistamine can help fight the release of histamine that happens as your body responds to the mosquito’s saliva, Dr. Wassef says. Look for daytime options to avoid drowsiness, like loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), or levocetirizine (Xyzal).4
Take the medication on an as-needed basis, per the directions on the label, Dr. Wassef says. “Once the itching resolves, you can stop using it,” she says.
Are there any other mosquito bite home remedies worth trying…or are they all BS?
Popular bug bite home remedies are not as magical as you may have been led to believe (sorry!). Here’s what you need to know:
Squeezing the bite
Technically it’s not scratching, but trying to squeeze the itch out of a mosquito bite also isn’t a great idea, as it “can cause further irritation and the release of more histamines, making the itchiness worse,” Dr. Rodney says. “It is best to avoid squeezing or scratching mosquito bites.” Squeezing the area of the bite isn’t going to remove the mosquito saliva from your skin, despite what you may have read online, Dr. Wassef says.
This home remedy comes up a lot, but Dr. Rodney says it’s an “ineffective” hack. “Some toothpastes may provide a cooling sensation, but it does not contain any active ingredients that can reduce itchiness, inflammation, or histamine release,” she says. Meaning, you may feel better briefly, but toothpaste won’t have a lasting effect on your mosquito bites. “There’s also a chance of causing an unwanted reaction due to possible allergens in the toothpaste itself,” Dr. Rodney says.
Dabbing on vinegar
Vinegar—especially apple cider vinegar—is commonly touted for taking the itch out of bug bites, but the doctors we spoke with say it could cause more trouble than it’s worth. “Vinegar is quite acidic and can cause irritation to the skin,” Dr. Wassef says, adding that it can also cause “skin breaks” (a.k.a. microscopic damage), which can open you up to a potential infection. While it may give you a cooling sensation, vinegar doesn’t contain any active ingredients that can reduce inflammation or the release of histamine, Dr. Rodney says, so it’s not a legit mosquito bite treatment.
When to see a doctor for a mosquito bite
As you’ve probably experienced since you were a kid, your mosquito bite will likely heal on its own over the course of a few days—but sometimes these spots can get infected or cause a significant reaction that requires more than home treatment.