Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?

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No one likes them, but sometimes, there’s just no way to avoid them. When summer rolls around, it’s mosquito season, and even if you’re careful, there’s always a chance you will get bitten. 

Mosquito bites wouldn’t be so bad (blood-borne diseases aside) if they didn’t itch so much! 

In some parts of the world, just walking across a lawn in the summertime can send a cloud of mosquitos into the air. So it’s almost impossible to avoid them completely! 

But have you ever wondered why mosquito bites itch, and what you can do to prevent and treat bites? Read on to find out what you need to know. 

Woman scratching arm because it stings in a park with copy space

Not a One Way Thing!

The most important reason why mosquito bites itch is that a mosquito bite is not just about sucking out your blood. They also inject various substances into your skin, including a numbing agent, anti-coagulant, and various proteins. 

An Immune Response

When our bodies experience a new substance, we usually don’t have a response to it. However, over time, your body recognizes that the substance – in this case, mosquito saliva – does not belong. 

It activates the immune system, which sends histamine and white blood cells to sort out the problem. 

Histamine is the same thing that is released by mistake when you have an allergic reaction to something harmless, and the effect is the same. A very itchy, possibly raised hive where you were bitten! 

Different People Affected Differently

Perhaps the most unfair thing about mosquito bites is that they don’t affect everyone the same way. 

Some people have little or no response all their lives. Others develop tolerance to mosquitos over time. Some have a serious reaction, sometimes called “skeeter syndrome.”

It’s also worth noting that different mosquito breeds from different areas might affect you differently. So even if you aren’t badly affected by the mosquitos near your home, if you go on a vacation, the local mosquitos might give you a much bigger (and itchier!) reaction. 

Scratching Only Makes It Itch More

Sometimes, you just can’t help but scratch a mosquito bite. That’s the first instinct we all have. However, it won’t help. 

In fact, scratching only increases inflammation, and inflammation will only make your skin itch more. So while it might be satisfying to scratch for a moment, it’s not a solution to itchy mosquito bites! 

How to Deal with Mosquito Bites

The big problem with mosquito bites is that everyone reacts differently. For some, they’re a mild annoyance. For others, they can lead to extreme itching, swelling, and more. 

Some of the options you have to deal with the itch from mosquito bites are:

  • Use rubbing alcohol to clean the area – this can help to cool your skin, as well as sterilize the bite, which could make it feel a little less itchy
  • Honey can be applied directly to mosquito bites (unless you have a bee allergy!) – it is a natural antiseptic and can be soothing (if a little sticky!) 
  • Used, damp green or black tea bags applied directly to the bite can help relieve the itch
  • Oatmeal baths might also help – all you need to do is put some oatmeal into a cheesecloth bag and let it “steep” in your bathwater
  • Basil oil or mashed basil leaves might help to relieve itching 
  • An over-the-counter oral antihistamine can help to relieve itching
  • Topical over-the-counter anti-itch creams might also help, especially those that have a small amount of cortisone in them
  • Aloe vera gel can also help to relieve the itch from mosquito bites
  • Try numbing creams that contain benzocaine or lidocaine – they might not stop the cause of the itch, but they can take away some of the irritation!
  • Minced garlic helps to relieve itching for some people

There are other home remedies like lemon juice, toothpaste, and baking soda that have mixed results, and should be attempted with an abundance of caution, if at all. 

When Should You See a Doctor for a Mosquito Bite?

Usually, for the vast majority of people, mosquito bites are not a big problem, and they will go away within a day or two. They’re a mild irritation, but they can be dealt with adequately at home. 

However, for some people, they might have an actual full-blown allergic reaction to mosquito bites. This can lead to a potentially fatal condition called anaphylaxis. When people develop a very severe allergic reaction to something, they can have trouble breathing, and it is a medical emergency. 

Gasping for breath, changes in skin color, and severe swelling are all signs that the reaction to a mosquito bite might be more dangerous. 

So whether you or someone you care about has a mosquito bite, always look for signs that they might be having a more serious response to the bite and seek medical attention as soon as you suspect something is wrong. 

Infections, Secondary Symptoms, and More

Even if you don’t have a potentially fatal allergic reaction to mosquito bites, some people can have some additional side effects that are out of the ordinary. 

Some might develop severe joint pain or raised red and white welts or hives. 

Others might develop a fever, and some might get an infection from scratching that can lead to lesions or blisters. 

In all of these cases, it’s best to seek medical attention from a doctor. You might well need a prescription antihistamine or other medication to treat both the bite and the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. 

Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Unfortunately, sometimes, a mosquito bite is more than just a mosquito bite. That’s because these insects can carry and spread diseases. 

Some of the diseases that are known to be spread by mosquitos are the Zika virus, malaria, and West Nile virus. All of these are potentially serious conditions. So if you are going to be traveling to any area where these diseases are known to exist, speak to your doctor about precautions you can take to avoid being infected. 

It may seem strange, but mosquitos are recognized as the world’s most deadly animal because they kill more people every year than any other animal on earth. 

When Will the Itch Go Away?

The good news for most people who don’t have very severe reactions to mosquito bites is that the itching and other effects will probably go away in a day or two. Just be careful not to scratch, or you might introduce bacteria into the bite and cause an infection! 

You may be left with a small mark or scar where the bite was, but this will fade over time, and you can use over-the-counter scar treatments to fade them faster. 

Preventing Mosquito Bites

The best way to deal with mosquito bites is not to get them in the first place, and there are several ways you can do that:

  • Use a good insect repellent when you are going to be outside in an area that is known for mosquitos
  • Cover as much of your body with clothing as you can - if the mosquitos can’t find your skin, they can’t bite you! 
  • Take a shower before you head out – sweat and body odor can attract mosquitos
  • Keep travel-sized after bite lotion, aloe vera, and alcohol wipes with you when you are out, so you can treat bites as soon as they happen
  • Keep screen doors and windows closed on warm, humid nights

Mosquitos are also attracted to some things you can’t see, like carbon dioxide, lactic acid, light, and heat. So if you’re heading out, never assume they won’t find you and always be prepared! 

Sleeping with a mosquito net can help to keep mosquitos away while you’re sleeping. A fan left on at night can also help, because mosquitos are very small, and they tend to get blown off course fairly easily. 

Where Do Mosquitos Breed?

Mosquitos are found around the world – even in northern countries like Canada. In cold climates, their eggs lie dormant during the winter and only hatch when the weather warms up in the spring. 

No matter where you live, mosquitos love to breed in the same places: standing water. Whether it’s an abandoned pool or puddles in the park, in just a few days, they can become a mosquito nursery and send hundreds or even thousands of the little biters out into the world! 

Many cities do spray pesticides early in the mosquito season to try to keep numbers down, but this never eliminates them completely since they can breed nearly anywhere there is stagnant water. 

The best way to keep mosquitos away from your home is to make sure you don’t have any standing water nearby, but while it’s possible to do that in your own yard, you have less control over areas outside of your property. 

Lights and “bug zappers” are an effective option to keep mosquito populations down because they’re attracted to the light. 

Citronella candles and commercial mosquito repellent burners can help too. However, if you live in an area where there are a lot of mosquitos, you might need to invest in a screened-in porch! 

Can Mosquitos Bite Pets?

If you thought mosquitos only attack people, think again. Mosquitos can and do bite all kinds of animals, and if you notice your pets scratching during mosquito season, it might be because of mosquitos rather than fleas! 

Of course, dogs and cats have built-in fur coats, so their skin is a little harder to reach, but they can very definitely get bitten, and they will itch the same way you do. 

Why Do Mosquitos Bite?

Many people think that all mosquitos bite, but that’s not true. Male mosquitos don’t bite, and females usually bite and feed right before they’re getting ready to lay eggs. This means that if you’re having a lot of trouble with mosquitos, you’ve become part of their “circle of life.”

Male mosquitos have a much less bloody diet – most of them feed on nectar! 

Do All Mosquitos Bite People?

No. There are many types of mosquitoes that don’t bite people at all. They prefer different animals to people, and they’ll leave you alone, even if you walk through a swarm of them. 

Unfortunately, mosquitos tend to live and breed where they can find easy meals, so if you have mosquitos close to your home, there’s a good chance it’s because they like the taste of people! 

How Long Do Mosquitos Live?

There’s bad news if you thought mosquitos only hung around for a short while and then died. Many species of mosquito live five or six months – and they can come back and bite you many times during that time. 

Will Mosquitos Ever Go Away?

You might be hoping that one day, mosquitos will simply go away and leave people alone. However, like many insects, they’re far too resilient and far too prolific in the breeding department for that! 

Mosquitos are very tough for their size, and because they breed so quickly, there are just too many of them to get rid of them completely. So it seems that we’re stuck with mosquitos. 

The only way to escape mosquitos is to move to a place where they are less prolific, but aside from major urban centers, you’d be hard-pressed to find any place that is completely mosquito-free. 

Hire a Professional to Keep Mosquitos Away

While we can’t eliminate mosquitos completely, you can take steps to get them out of your backyard and your home. 

If you’re struggling with a plague of mosquitos, call a professional pest control specialist to help. They might be able to pinpoint where they are coming from and take appropriate action, and they can certainly advise you about products that can help to keep them out of your home and garden. 

In the meantime, stock up on bug repellent, avoid places where mosquitos gather in large numbers, and if you have a serious reaction, seek help as soon as you can. 

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