Why do mosquito bites itch and how to soothe them

Itchy mosquito bites can be a summer nightmare. But why do these bites itch so much? When a mosquito bites, our immune system kicks in to protect us against the attack. This phenomenon is similar to an allergic reaction and causes an itchy raised bump to appear. This article discusses why mosquito bites itch and swell, as well as available treatments.

Why do mosquito bites itch?

When a mosquito bite breaks the skin, the body recognizes the mosquito’s saliva as a foreign substance. This causes an immune system response, which aims to eliminate the intruder. The swelling around the bite is caused by histamine, which is produced by the immune system. Histamine increases blood flow and the number of white blood cells around the affected area, which causes inflammation or swelling. Mosquito bites itch because histamine also sends a signal to the nerves around the bite. The first time a person is bitten, their body may not react that way. The immune response is something the body learns after being exposed to a foreign substance. Some people may never react to a bite. Others may become more tolerant of a mosquito’s saliva over time. For many, the reaction remains constant, and mosquito bites continue to be an annoyance.

Why do mosquitoes bite us?

Mosquitoes bite humans to drink their blood. Nutrients in a human’s blood help female mosquitoes make the eggs they need to reproduce. Only female mosquitoes bite humans. A mosquito uses the pointed end of its straw-like mouth (proboscis) to pierce a person’s skin. It locates the blood vessel and sucks the blood through its mouth.
In doing so, he injects saliva which contains an anticoagulant. This prevents the person’s blood from clotting. If blood were to clot around the mosquito’s mouth, it could get stuck.

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Does scratching make it worse?

Scratching mosquito bites can make itching worse. Mosquito bites itch due to inflammation. Instead of relieving the itch, scratching an already inflamed area increases the inflammation. This makes the area even more itchy. Scratching can also increase the risk of infection if the skin breaks. If the area becomes infected, it will be much more irritated and take longer to heal.

Relieve itching from mosquito bites

The following treatments can help reduce the swelling and itching of a mosquito bite:

Applying heat

Applying heat to a mosquito bite can help reduce inflammation and itching. A 2011 study showed that locally administered heat quickly relieved mosquito bite symptoms.

Apply honey

Honey is antibacterial and can aid wound healing. A 2011 study found that natural honey can reduce inflammation and prevent infection. For this reason, natural honey can help reduce the symptoms of a mosquito bite when applied to the affected area. It is essential to wash it before going out, as it can attract mosquitoes and other insects.


One species of aloe, Aloe littoralis, has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote wound healing in animal studies. Applying aloe gel to a mosquito bite can help relieve inflammation and soothe itching.

basil oil

The anti-inflammatory properties of basil oil suggest that it may help relieve inflammation from a mosquito bite.

When to consult a doctor

Mosquito bites can cause joint swelling, hives, and high fever in some people. Mosquito bites can become infected, which can mean they take longer to heal. It’s a good idea for a person to talk to a doctor about any suspected infection.

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Mosquito bites can also cause the following symptoms in some people:

high fever
joint swelling

A person should see a doctor if they experience these symptoms. Initially, the doctor will usually recommend over-the-counter antihistamines to treat these symptoms.

Bites from Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus species of mosquitoes are linked to a number of diseases. These include Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

The risk of contracting a disease from a mosquito is low in France. If a person is traveling to a country where mosquitoes can carry disease, they should seek advice from their doctor. A doctor can advise on the best way to stay safe and reduce the risk of infection.

Prevention of mosquito bites

To reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes, you should:

use mosquito repellent
wear long-sleeved clothes and long pants
wash frequently, as sweat can attract mosquitoes
avoid alcohol, as it can increase the likelihood of being bitten.


Mosquito bites usually heal within a few days. Avoid scratching the bite when it itches to reduce healing time. If the person has sensitive skin, the pigmentation of the skin around the bite may change as it heals. The use of creams containing vitamin E and the application of sunscreen can help prevent this phenomenon.


Hajhashemi, V., Ghannadi, A., & Heidari, AH (2012, April–June). Anti-inflammatory and wound healing activities of Aloe littoralis in rats. Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, 7(2), 73–78

Mandal, MD, & Mandal, S. (2011, April). Honey: Its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 1(2), 154–160

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Müller, C., Großjohann, B., & Fischer, L. (2011, December 15). The use of concentrated heat after insect bites/stings as an alternative to reduce swelling, pain, and pruritus: An open cohort-study at German beaches and bathing-lakes. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 4, 191–196

Yamada, AN, Grespan, R., Yamada, Á. T., Silva, EL, Silva-Filho, SE, Damião, MJ, … Cuman, RKN (2013, January). Anti-inflammatory activity of Ocimum americanum L. essential oil in experimental model of zymosan-induced arthritis. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 41(4), 913

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