Why some people attract more mosquito bites than others and how to treat the itch
Mosquitos thrive in warmer weather and are common pests in the summer, feeding off human blood.
You may not notice a mosquito bite at first since their saliva numbs the skin before they puncture it. However, a few minutes later you're likely to develop a bump that's red and itchy that will turn into a reddish-brown bump or dark, bruise-like spot after a few days.
Some people experience a mild reaction to mosquito bites that resolve in a few days, but others may experience a more severe reaction that needs treatment.
Here's who is most susceptible to mosquito bites and measures you can take to treat it and prevent future bites.
Who do mosquitoes bite?
How susceptible you are to mosquito bites varies per person, says Stacy Chimento, MD, a dermatologist with Riverchase Dermatology. For example, people who sweat more produce higher amounts of lactic acid and ammonia, which attract mosquitoes. Therefore, they may end up with several bites while someone else only gets one or two.
Another factor could be blood type. Research suggests that people with blood type O are more attractive to mosquitos, which may be why they get bitten more often than others, says Dylan Alston, DO, a dermatologist with Intermountain Healthcare.
Some studies have also shown that mosquitoes may be more drawn to pregnant people due to physiological changes.
How to treat mosquito bites
In most cases, mosquito bites clear up on their own in about two to three days, Alston says, but here are some ways to relieve the itching and swelling in the meantime:
- Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone or antihistamine cream to reduce itching.
- Rub calamine lotion over the bites. This can also help relieve itching.
- Place an ice pack or a cold towel over the bite to help reduce swelling.
- Make a paste with 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of baking soda and ½ tbsp of water to help reduce swelling and itching. Apply on the mosquito bite and leave for 10 minutes before washing off.
How to prevent mosquito bites
During the summer, it can seem almost impossible to escape mosquitoes and their bites, but there are steps you can take to decrease your risk of being bitten.
- Apply insect repellent registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before going outside. Mosquitoes can bite through thin clothing, so it's important to apply it on both exposed skin and clothing.
- Wear long sleeves and pants made of thick fabric like denim, if you're going to be outside for an extended period of time in a mosquito-infested area. Additionally, treat your clothing and gear with 0.5% permethrin — an insecticide that repels mosquitoes.
- Keep your yard well-drained and free of standing water. This can help reduce the presence of mosquitoes since they lay their eggs in or near water, Alston says. For example, throw out water that may collect in a birdbath or open container at least once a week.
Mosquito bites appear as round pink or white bumps on your skin and are often accompanied by itching and swelling.
You can treat mosquito bites at home by applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, a cold compress, or a paste with baking soda and water to the bite site.
If your itching and swelling last for longer than five to seven days or you also experience a low-grade fever, increased redness, or swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat, seek medical attention.