Grandma’s Home Remedies: Mosquito Bites

Ivy says:

My kids must be extra sweet because they are covered in mosquito bites, and I (luckily) have none. You know how kids can get when they’re itchy and uncomfortable- they whine a lot. And when they whine a lot, my patience gets thin, and then we’re in for a miserable day.

On Saturday, my daughter was upset about her mosquito bites but claimed not to be able to find the Benadryl cream. It was in the right hand drawer of my bathroom cabinet, which I told her, but you know how kids can get. A vague memory of my childhood resurfaced, and I told her to try scratching an X over the top of the bite, hard with her fingernail and then spit on it. Lo and behold, the itching stopped.

She and her little brother spent the rest of the day happily drawing Xes on their mosquito bites and then spitting on them. Hey, whatever gets you through the day, kids.

I also remember my mom putting white toothpaste on my bites and then telling me to blow on it. And my grandfather would put clear nail polish on his bites. I always thought that was for tick bites, but who knows. It seemed to work for him.

Is there actual science behind these home remedies? Perhaps. I read somewhere that there’s an enzyme in spit that causes the bites to itch less. The same may be true for the toothpaste. In the case of my grandpa and his clear nail polish, I suspect it covers the bite and keeps it away from air, causing the itching to go down. The X might draw the itchy enzyme away from the site of the bite.

Other things I have heard over the years is to take the hottest washcloth you can stand on your skin and put it over the bite. Also, a spray of vinegar is supposed to help the bite. Another one I’ve heard is to use a paste of meat tenderizer and water on the bite.

It seems there are a blue million ways to stop mosquito bite itches. What are your favorite remedies?


  1. Peggy on September 24, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I agree with Beauty. Anything cold, coke can, tea glass, ice, swimming pool, whatever. It reduces the swelling and thus the itching. If you can keep from breaking the skin it should heal pretty quickly.

  2. Andy on November 17, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Salt and water works the best (so far). I just tried it because I couldn’t sleep with my enormous bites! I wanna try that nail polish…hmmm?

  3. Beauty on September 24, 2008 at 1:59 am

    Hold an ice cube or ice pack on the bite.

  4. Shani on September 24, 2008 at 1:52 am

    put a bar of soap on to the bite and rub it around. It stop the itches!

  5. Maleesha on September 24, 2008 at 1:42 am

    White vinegar is another effective remedy for mosquito bites Dab it on with a cotton ball .

  6. Carolie on August 3, 2008 at 7:43 am

    We used to slap the skin, with relatively gentle little stinging slaps (you can’t slap each other, children, only yourselfs. Stop that!)

    Scratching makes the skin raw, opens wounds, drives in germs, etc. But slapping does the same thing as scratching (little jolts of pain to the nerve endings) without opening the skin. I think my mother may have also enjoyed watching the three of us sitting in a row, diligently slapping our own arms and legs.

  7. Tammy on July 30, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I use Tea Tree Oil on bug bites–works great! Just make sure that if you use “straight” TTO, you need to mix it with a little olive or veggie oil first, otherwise it can be too strong for direct contact. Lavendar Oil is also good if you don’t have tea tree.

  8. Big GUM on July 29, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I’d be afraid of that “X” method; sounds like a good way to get an infection. (But maybe you’re not really breaking the skin open?)
    We always did a paste of meat tenderizer and water when I was a kid. Salt and water works pretty well too.

    • Sammy Ann on May 4, 2011 at 1:40 am

      You don't actually break the skin open. You just press your nail down on the bite and make an X. Just hard enough (which isn't really hard at all) to make the mark show up. (Try it on your normal skin. You wouldn't have to press as hard on the sensitive bite area to make the mark show, so that should give you an idea of how hard to press down for the X method.) My sister and I have done it since I can remember and it works like a charm 🙂

  9. Bree on July 29, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    I have an extra sweet and picky little girl. The bugs eat her alive and then she scraches at them like crazy. I found these band-aids that stick really well. They are called Tattoo Band-Aids. They stay on very well as long as you put it on when the skin is dry. We usually have to do the 1 2 3 rip to get them off and we are always so surprised to find the sore all healed. She gets so excited and says “It melted all away!” Any I thought this may be a big help to other moms like me.

    P.S. I love your site!

  10. meghan on July 28, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Aveeno hydrocortisone cream (or generic brand); I like cream better than ointment because it absorbs faster.

    Tea tree oil is really pungent but effective.

    I use the ‘x’ remedy as well, and last summer a friend of mine told me to use rubbing alcohol. That plus hydrocortisone seems to work like a charm.

    The one time I had chigger bites, I had 40+ on my lower back and feet so I got a prescription cream.

  11. Fawn on July 28, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Ick, the idea of nail polish on my skin weirds me out! 😛

    Mosquito bites don’t bother me that much, but we have a great remedy for bee or wasp stings. It’s a traditional aboriginal trick that works well around here because we have tons of wild roses around.

    After a bite, pick some fresh wild rose leaves and chew them up. Stick that goop on the bite and the pain will instantly ease, plus it will keep the swelling down.

    We know it works because one summer my hubby got two bites, one that he treated right away, and one where there were any roses around. The one that didn’t get treated blew up like crazy and he had an attractive overbite for about a week! LOL I wonder if this works with garden roses, too?

  12. Rachel on July 28, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I have >30 bites right now – I may try *all* of these. 🙂

  13. Hilary on July 28, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    By the way, we are in the middle of our dermatology system. If I can ask one of the physicians about it, I’ll let you know.

  14. Hilary on July 28, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    I use calendula cream, which works great for us.

    Or shea butter. Or witch hazel;) But those aren’t old wives’ tales, they’re old man tales.

  15. Patia on July 28, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Great topic. Here’s a list of home remedies I compiled last summer from Internet research:

    tea tree
    rubbing alcohol
    scotch tape
    baking soda
    hot compresses
    hot showers
    tiger balm
    lip balm

    I can’t say which actually work.

  16. Lenetta on July 28, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    My mom always used campho-phenique on ours. (good grief I don’t remember how to spell it!) Also, I think that some people are more allergic to mosquitoes than others, which is why some are more bothered by the bites than others.

  17. La Rêveuse on July 28, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Windex. That Big Fat Greek Wedding guy was totally right. Instantly stops the itch. I am extra sweet, too, and I’d rather smell like windex once in a while than smell like garlic all the time. (Can’t do lavendar, as I am also allergic to bees and don’t want to attract them.)

  18. Julie on July 28, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Clear nail polish was always for chiggers here, and we used an OTC gel called Rhuli-gel (spelling?) for mosquito bites. I’m extra sweet too, because I get devoured if I am not careful.

  19. Mom of three on July 28, 2008 at 10:39 am

    What makes it itch is the saliva of the mosquito. Any thing that blocks the air flow will work basically. I use the clear nail polish route myself. It also protects the skin if you happen to want to itch anyway.

  20. Angela on July 28, 2008 at 10:27 am

    My husbands grandparents use onion on there bites. She keeps some dices in the freezer and then takes out a little chunk when needed.

  21. andrea on July 28, 2008 at 10:02 am

    I haven’t had any luck with the lavender essential oil keeping the bugs away but putting a drop on each bite works way better than benedryl.

  22. Teresa on July 28, 2008 at 9:40 am

    The best offense is a good defense. 🙂

    Lavender essential oil neat on your pulse points keeps them off. Eating lots of garlic and onions does too.

    Avoiding bananas helps some, and extra b-complex in the summertime repels mosquitoes.

  23. jag on July 28, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I thought that nail polish was for chiggers, but I’ve never tried it on mosquito bites. At camp one summer, having just moved to the south and as yet not heard of chiggers, I was more than a little confused when a bunkmate put red nail polish (nobody had any clear) on a chigger bite right smack dab in the middle of her butt cheek.

  24. Emily on July 28, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Straight ammonia on a q-tip. (Obviously this is an adult-supervision tip)

  25. tink on July 28, 2008 at 9:01 am

    I go with the meat tenderizer for both mosquito bites and bee stings.

  26. Kristin Amaro on July 28, 2008 at 8:50 am

    I am extra-sweet myself…I have been applying a natrual salve called, “Eden Salve” and it brings relief. Also – for prevention – taking a regular dose of B-vitamins keep the little buggers away (they don’t like the smell of you so much w/ the B).

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