Mosquito Bite Home Remedies

While you can buy treatments for mosquito bites, there are a lot of home remedies that can relieve the itching and sting without the expense. Here are common household items you can try as mosquito bite home remedies. I've included notes about the safety and effectiveness of the various treatments, too.

Why Mosquito Bites Itch

The secret to stopping the itching and swelling is to address the underlying cause. When a mosquito bites, it injects an anticoagulant into your skin. The mosquito saliva causes a mild allergic reaction. To relieve the itchy, red bump, you either need to deactivate the reactive chemicals in the saliva or else counteract the body's immune response, which is what ultimately causes the discomfort. It takes a couple of hours for your body to react to the bite fully, so your best success involves treating the bite as soon as possible. After a couple of hours, it's too late to prevent the reaction, but you can still relieve the itching and swelling.

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Teen girls applying ammonia with cotton balls
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Household ammonia is a popular and effective anti-itch remedy. It is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter mosquito bite remedies. The ammonia changes the skin's acidity (pH), countering some of the chemical reactions that make you itch.

What To Do

Dampen a cotton ball with ammonia and wet the area affected by the bite. This treatment works best on fresh bites. Only use household ammonia, which is diluted, not ammonia from a science lab, which is too concentrated. If you have sensitive skin, you'll probably want to skip this treatment and opt for one that is gentle for your skin.

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Rubbing Alcohol

Woman applying rubbing alcohol on a child's arm
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Rubbing alcohol is either isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol. In either case, this home remedy works tricking your brain into not-feeling the itch. As the alcohol evaporates, it cools the skin. You'll feel the cooling sensation more quickly than the itch, so this treatment should give you some relief. Alcohol also acts as a disinfectant, so it helps prevent infection. It dries the skin, so it may shrink the size of the bite and help reduce swelling. Be warned, if the skin is broken the alcohol may also burn.

What To Do

Pour alcohol over the affected area or dab a damp cotton ball onto the bite. Use enough alcohol, so the area feels wet. Let the spot evaporate and enjoy the relief. It's not a cure, so expect the itching to return in a few hours.

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Hydrogen Peroxide

Woman applying cotton pad to hand
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The hydrogen peroxide that you can buy at a drugstore is 3% peroxide. It's useful as a disinfectant and may help prevent infections from mosquito bites if applied right away. Some people swear it helps relieve itching, swelling, and redness. If it does, it's likely a result of the oxidizing power of the peroxide, which breaks chemical bonds. From a chemical standpoint, it's unlikely peroxide does much against itching, unless you have a slight infection to kill.

What To Do

Wet a cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide and apply it to the bite. You can reapply this as necessary without risk. This is a great treatment for kids or people with sensitive skin since it is unlikely to cause a reaction. Be sure to use household peroxide and not reagent-grade peroxide or 6% peroxide from a beauty salon, since these products are dangerously strong and would burn skin. The usual stuff in the brown bottle is very safe, however.

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Hand Sanitizer

A hand sanitizer dispenser

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The active ingredient in most hand sanitizers is alcohol, so this works the same as rubbing alcohol, plus the gel may extend the relief. If you have been scratching the itch, peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and hand sanitizer all help to prevent infection. The peroxide stings the least, while the alcohol and hand sanitizer are more likely to relieve itching.

What To Do

Apply a blob of hand sanitizer to the bite. Leave it there. Simple!

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Meat Tenderizer

A cut open papaya

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Meat tenderizer contains enzymes, such as papain, that tenderize meat by breaking the chemical bonds that hold the muscle fibers together. Meat tenderizer is effective against insect stings and other types of venom because it breaks the proteins that cause a reaction. Although it's unlikely meat tenderizer can do much good once a bite has had a chance to swell up, if you apply it immediately after you are bitten or shortly afterward, it may deactivate the chemicals in the mosquito saliva that will make you itchy and red.

What To Do

Either apply meat tenderizing powder directly to the bite area or mix it with a small amount of water. Leave it on for a couple of minutes, but not too long or you're likely to tenderize yourself! This is a safe remedy, but since many products contain herbs and spices, it might cause itchiness of its own if you have sensitive skin.

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Deodorant or Antiperspirant

Man applying antiperspirant Images

Although deodorant probably won't help much, antiperspirant contains an aluminum compound that acts as an astringent. It may not help with the itching, but it could help reduce swelling and redness.

What To Do

Swipe or spray antiperspirant onto the bite.

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Bar of soap on a washcloth

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Soap is basic, so it changes the acidity of your skin. Although it likely won't help on a well-established bite, it may deactivate some of the chemicals in mosquito saliva in much the same way ammonia works. The problem here is that soap often causes skin irritation, so you have a chance of worsening the discomfort of the bite. If you use this remedy, opt for a gentle soap, free of perfumes and dyes.

What To Do

Rub a bit of soap onto the bite. If you experience worsening of itching or swelling, rinse it off.

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Ketchup, Mustard, and other Condiments

Ketchup and mustard

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Ketchup, mustard, cocktail sauce, hot pepper sauce, and assorted other condiments may provide temporary relief from the discomfort of mosquito bites because they are either acidic and change the pH of the skin or they are salty and dry out the bite, reducing inflammation. Also, the coolness of a refrigerated sauce may ease the itch for a while. Your mileage may vary, plus you'll be walking around smelling like food.

What To Do

Apply a dab of whatever is handy in the fridge to the bite. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off. If the cold seemed to help, feel free to repeat the process with a cool, damp towel or an ice cube.

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Tea Tree Oil

A woman smelling tea tree oil
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Tea tree oil has antibacterial and antiviral properties, so it may help prevent the infection of a mosquito bite. Tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory, so it reduces redness and swelling. It's found as an essential oil, plus it is present in some lotions, soaps, and shampoos.

What To Do

Apply the oil or the product containing the oil to the bite. Some people are sensitive to the oil, especially in its pure form, so this may not be an optimal remedy if you have sensitive skin or allergies.

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Things That Don't Work

A man looking at oils in grocery store aisle
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Here's a list of home remedies that are unlikely to work. You may get a placebo effect, but there's no known chemical reason for these treatments to relieve itching, redness, or swelling:

  • Urine (Okay, it might help, but really? Try something else on the list.)
  • Baby oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Tape (It might keep you from scratching, which is something.)
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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Mosquito Bite Home Remedies." ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, July 29). Mosquito Bite Home Remedies. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Mosquito Bite Home Remedies." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).