Some people are mosquito magnets. They attract mosquitoes like honey draws flies. A bunch of people can be sitting around the back yard enjoying themselves and not being bothered by mosquitoes. That’s because one or two people in the group are getting all the mosquito action. It’s not fair! I know because I am one of those mosquito magnets. What do I do to stop the itch of mosquito bites? This reader would like to know what to do when strategies to prevent mosquito bites fail.
Q. Recently I was out in the backyard for about 15 minutes with my grandkids. I ended up with two large swollen bites that itched and kept me awake for a couple nights. No one else out there was bitten.
This happens to me every year. I attract mosquitoes and then I seem to be hypersensitive to the bites. Any advice?
Preventing Mosquito Bites in the First Place!
A. Someone like you, who is especially attractive to mosquitoes, should apply repellent before going outside. DEET is effective but if you prefer something else, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin also work to ward off mosquitoes.
Learn more about products such as Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel Picaridin at this link:
Our readers have lots of suggestions to keep mosquitoes from sucking your blood. Please keep in mind that there is tremendous variability in responses to such remedies. What works for one person could be completely ineffective for someone else.
Pat in Saint Helens, Oregon:
“Use Vicks Vaporub. The mosquitos hate the smell.”
The only trouble with Vicks is that it is greasy! You will feel slimy from the petrolatum (petroleum jelly). Other humans may also hate the smell.
Although many readers swear by vitamin B1 (thiamine) as a mosquito deterrent, the science says it doesn’t work. We think body chemistry might have something to do with the variable responses. We believe some people do benefit from thiamine while others do not. Here are some stories from those who have benefitted. We would caution not to overdose on thiamine. A few days may be safe to take higher than normal doses…but don’t overdose for long periods of time without first checking with a nutrition expert.
Elle hates the blood-sucking stalkers but loves Vitamin B1:
“I hate mosquitoes. For the past 25 years, I have been tormented by these (evil) blood sucking-stalkers. Unfortunately, I am highly allergic to their bite, specifically the saliva. My skin swells up to unnatural proportions with itching so intense it is unbearable. I’ve wished I could have the bite area surgically removed to stop the itching. Nothing helped, including antihistamines, and every home folk remedy known.
“I’d scour the internet daily to find/try anything that might work. Finally, about 3 years ago, I found it! Someone had traveled in Thailand. A pharmacy team in Bangkok prescribed THE best preventative remedy.*Vitamin B1* 400mg daily, not anything less! I take 2x 250mg tabs daily.
“B vitamins are water soluble [like vitamin C]. Your body needs B1, and it will naturally eliminate the excess in your urine. No more potions, mixing, slathering, garlic smell or dryer sheets. This works! The odd bite I did get didn’t have the histamine reaction in my body. No swelling and barely an itch. I thank God.”
Heide in Delray Beach, Florida, also likes vitamin B1 to prevent the itch of mosquito bites:
“For over 35 years I have been taking Vitamin B1 (thiamine 100 mg) every day to keep mosquitos away. I heard it on The People’s Pharmacy. I play golf. The ladies are spraying repellant all over themselves. When I lived in Raleigh, N.C. I used it from April to November, but now I am in Florida and I use it every day.
“The B-1 puts out an odor. We cannot detect it. The mosquitos don’t like it and keep away. Vets suggested it to dogs to keep the pests away. When my granddaughter was 4 she got all bit up playing in her yard. My daughter started her on 50 mg. and after that she didn’t have a problem. I have suggested this to others and they too find it works. The bugs fly around me but don’t land on me.”
Pat in western North Carolina is also a mosquito magnet:
“I am usually the mosquito magnet in any crowd. I was proactive this year and started taking both a higher-dose vitamin B combination and a fermented black garlic capsule twice daily. This seems to be working! I am also eating cashews which someone said worked for them.
“Sooooo, don’t know which of the treatments is the magic one, or if it’s the combination of the 3, but something IS WORKING. It’s great to be able enjoy being outside more.”
Lyn in North Carolina is a fan of vitamin B1:
“I am a gardener and have always been a mosquito magnet. Read about B1 and have been taking it for several days. Just went outside at 6 pm and not one bite! Usually they are all over me! Plus, we have had rain for several days which makes them worse here in the South. I will continue to take B1 until cold weather!”
Jennie G in Georgia goes with B complex to avoid the itch of mosquito bites:
“I read many years ago that B vitamins repel bug bites. Not just mosquitos but all bugs that bite. We have what is called no-see-ums here in my part of Georgia. I’ve been taking B complex for years and I can sit outside without being bitten and everyone around me is getting bites.”
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Carl in Duncanville, Texas, likes old-fashioned amber Listerine:
“I apply Listerine to my arms and head before I work outside. I have never been bit when I do this. I know it will last for at least three hours.”
Not everyone agrees:
CSV says Listerine didn’t help:
“This does not work. I have tried it several times with no luck. I still get eaten alive no matter how much Listerine I spray.”
Avon Skin So Soft:
Nadine in Texas loves Avon Skin So Soft (SSS):
“Skin So Soft oil spray was the only thing that repelled sand fleas in the swampy areas of South Carolina. Spending weeks in swampy environments as an active duty Marine, Deet products coupled with the sun’s rays damaged my skin. The Skin So Soft was mild on my skin and repelled all kinds of bugs. The troops and I would mix one cap full of rubbing alcohol in our bath oil spray bottle. The effects only lasted a few hours, but it works.
“I have tried every kind of bug repellent but Skin So Soft is the only product that my troops, my family, and I trusted for protection against insects in the woods and swampy environments.”
Pearl in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, agrees:
“My campus doctor at university told me when I was preparing to go to Malaysia, where she had been in her medical experience, to take at least three bottles of SSS body splash with me for the summer. I did so, and went out in the jungle and palm oil plantations where there are masses of mosquitoes. I also went on a ‘pig hunt’ taking photos, fully rubbed down with the formula. I was the only person of all the party who had not one mosquito welt on my skin.
“I dare say that with the extreme perspiration and humidity we were also much more tolerable. Nowadays, living in Louisiana, I am experiencing an unusual increase in mosquito activity, so I purchased a bottle of the bath oil from a local representative, relating the reason why. She said there was not a splash available any more, but the oil was reputed to be effective. I didn’t find it to be as reliable as the original formula I had with me in Malaysia, but it’s better than going out either coated with serious chemicals, or nothing.
“I have to refresh it after a few hours, probably due to perspiration. Not sure. But I don’t want to go outside without it! I was just advised by a friend that there is actually a repellent formula available now, so I will inquire of my Avon contact to try that.”
Chris in Fairview, Texas, likes nutritional yeast:
“I started taking nutritional yeast to control my allergies. It took about 4-6 weeks to kick in, but it does a good job of allergy protection. A surprising side effect is repelling mosquitos. I am one of those people that mosquitos can smell a mile away but not since I have been taking 2 teaspoons daily of premium nutritional yeast seasoning flakes. I can now go out in the early morning and late evening without being bitten. I am 66 and wish I had discovered nutritional yeast years ago.”
Overcoming the Itch of Mosquito Bites with Heat:
Once bitten, our best advice is to try heat. Hot tap water for a second or two can stop itching for a few hours. Some people use a brief application of a metal spoon that has been submerged in hot water. Be careful not to burn your skin.
Maryanne says it really works:
“I learned about the hot water method from my mom, a practical nurse, back in the 1970s. She said the hospital where she worked was experimenting with this method for patients with severe itching.
“Be careful you don’t burn yourself, though. Start slowly! (For this reason, I would NOT recommend applying heat of any kind to another person — especially elderly — b/c they might not be able to feel when it’s getting too hot!)
“I have also used the hot water method successfully for flea, mosquito, and poison ivy itch.”
J.B. has been using hot water for decades:
“An old friend in the Navy told me many years ago that they had been taught to put really hot water on any bug bites to stop the itching. I’ve used that technique for the last 40 years and it always works.”
Nancy in California tried the hot spoon trick:
“I just tried this method this morning. I applied the hot spoon several times to an angry looking mosquito bite. Darned if that didn’t stop the itching almost immediately! Also, the welt is gone.
“I still have a red spot, but the swelling is completely gone, and it has been several hours. One thing I did read about this method is that it should be used as soon as possible after being bitten. I believe I was bitten early this morning and had the hot spoon on it within minutes of noticing it. I will definitely be testing this method again!”
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Battery-Powered Heat to Stop the Itch of Mosquito Bites:
Another option is a battery-operated device that heats the skin around the bite. We know of two brands, Therapik and Bite Helper. Such gadgets are especially helpful when you are away from home and don’t have ready access to hot water.
L.H. Offers this endorsement of Therapik:
“A super effective way to stop the itch of a mosquito or flea bite is to dip a metal spoon into hot water for about 10 seconds or so, and then put it on top of the bite (when it feels barely tolerable–don’t actually burn your skin!). You may have to reapply the spoon a few times. You may have to repeat the next day as well.
“I usually get a bad reaction to bites and scratch them relentlessly even in my sleep, but this has worked miracles for me! The heat neutralizes the venom; this is supposed to work for all kinds of insect bites. There is also a little battery-operated device you can buy online which has a safe little ‘laser’ button which has the same effect–great when you don’t have hot water and a spoon available. It’s called a ‘Therapik.’ Makes a great gift for camping friends–the friends I’ve given one to have practically cried with joy after they’ve experienced how well it works! :-}”
What Do You Do to Stop the Itch of Mosquito Bites?
Share your story in the comment section so others can benefit.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” Read Joe's Full Bio.
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