The 8 Best Mosquito Bite Treatments of 2021

Reduce swelling and pain with these treatments.

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The Rundown
Certified organic, promotes healing and safe enough for your face and all ages.
Some of the most affordable (and effective) treatments are those that have been used since your grandmother’s time
Plant-based oils and chamomile calm your body’s inflammatory response.
A dermatologist go-to with the maximum concentration of hydrocortisone without a prescription.
An organic and handmade cream that soothes bites, with a formula with sensitive skin in mind.
Small-batch handmade on the farm with soothing plantain, chamomile, and lavender.
A small electric shock reduces histamine production and associated swelling and itching.
Portable and focuses on removing the source of inflammation and itching.

When you’re working in the garden, hosting a barbecue, or camping, nothing is more frustrating than the swatting, itchy welts, and scratching caused by mosquitoes and other biting insects. If your body responds to mosquito bites poorly, it can make you want to just stay inside.

There are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting bites in the first place, like making sure your yard is naturally less inviting to mosquitoes and wearing insect repellant. But how can you get relief when you’ve already been bitten? There are a variety of products on the market including sprays, gels, creams, and salves. But you’ll also find “venom” extractors and gadgets that use an electric spark. All of these remedies focus on four main goals: reducing itching and inflammation (swelling), disinfection, and healing.

“To find the best ingredients, it is important to know what bothers you about mosquito bites,” explains board certified dermatologist Dr. Anna Chacon. “For most people it is the itching, swelling and discomfort/pain.” Some of the most effective ingredients are simple, natural and plant-based. Check out the What to Look For section below to help you decide which treatment might work best for you and your family.

Below are some of the best mosquito bite treatments available today.

Best Overall: Badger Aloe Vera Gel

Badger Aloe Vera Gel

You’re probably most familiar with Aloe vera as a succulent plant whose extracted clear gel makes an excellent sunburn treatment. It's also a handy way to sooth insect bites. You can keep an Aloe vera plant at home or you can try Badger Aloe Vera Gel.

Made with 96% pure organic aloe juice from the Aloe vera plant, also on ingredient labels as Aloe barbadensis, this gel is free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and artificial colors and dyes. It’s naturally unscented and works well for all skin types including sensitive skin because it contains only a handful of ingredients.

The aloe itself is U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified and National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) NSF-ANSI-305-Certified organic which means it’s been verified to contain at least 70% certified-organic and botanically-derived ingredients. The other ingredients are derived from non-GMO corn and other plants, cassia oil and natural fruit sugars. All of the ingredients are certified Leaping Bunny cruelty-free and Certified Fair Trade by the Fair Trade Sustainability Alliance.

Made in Gilsum, New Hampshire, the gel is bottled in a BPA-free and recyclable plastic tube. Badger is also a Certified B Corp, balancing profits with social and environmental responsibility. The gel leaves no sticky residue, actually works well and is mild enough for small children and babies and for use on your face. The gel itself is naturally cooling upon application, but you can boost that effect by storing the tube in the refrigerator for more profound relief from itching and swelling.

Best Budget: Walgreens Calamine Lotion

Walgreens Calamine Lotion

Although many of the products in this list sell for under $10, some of the most affordable (and effective) treatments are those that have been used since your grandmother’s time. Calamine lotion is a well-established treatment, and this formula is made with ingredients that all get good grades from the science-backed consumer watchdog Environmental Working Group (EWG).

To use, simply blot the lotion onto the bite and allow it to dry. You can re-apply as often as needed, but be sure to not use it on broken skin. 

“My mother occasionally applied calamine lotion to my mosquito and horse fly bites when they were at their worst growing up in the Midwest.” ~ Lorraine Wilde, Treehugger Contributor 

Best to Treat Swelling: Murphy’s Naturals Bite Relief Soothing Balm

Murphy’s Naturals Bite Relief Soothing Balm

Some of us respond to insect bites with significant swelling. That swelling is a result of the body’s histamine response, a natural part of our immune system. But some of us have a greater histamine response than others.

Murphy’s Naturals Bite Relief Soothing Balm uses a blend of plant-based ingredients to calm your body’s histamine response. The eucalyptus, andiroba and tea tree oils and chamomile in this balm are anti-inflammatory and also prevent bites from becoming infected. The balm base, made from olive and sunflower oil, beeswax and cocoa seed butter, moisturizes and holds healing ingredients on the skin. You’ll also likely appreciate the mild scent provided by the lavender and peppermint essential oils.

The balm is made in the United States and comes in a reusable and recyclable aluminum tin. A certified B Corporation, Murphy’s Naturals is also a business member of 1% for the Planet, a movement where businesses make annually-verified donations to environmental nonprofits.

Best to Treat Itching: Cortizone 10 Easy Relief With Healing Aloe

Cortizone 10 Easy Relief Anti Itch

When you really need itch relief you can try Cortizone 10 Extra Strength with Healing Aloe. The main ingredient is 1% hydrocortisone, the maximum strength you can get over the counter without a prescription. It’s a corticosteroid that calms your body’s histamine immune response so you experience less swelling, pain and especially itching.

All ingredients get top scores from 1 to 3 out of 10 for health and environmental impact from EWG. The blend includes moisturizers, healing Aloe leaf juice and an extract of oats. Oats and oatmeal contain compounds that are naturally anti-inflammatory and so reduce swelling and itching.

Hydrocortisone is commonly recommended by dermatologists to calm mosquito and other bites and rashes for short-term use. Cortizone 10 can be purchased in an “easy relief” applicator that looks a little like a lip balm tube so you can dab a little directly onto the bite. Found affordably at most drug stores, it’s also available as a cream, gel, lotion, ointment and liquid.

An added bonus is that all packaging is recyclable through TerraCycle.

Best for Babies: Sallye Ander’s “No-Bite-Me” Bug Repellent Cream

Sallye Ander No Bit Me Cream

Sallye Ander products were specifically designed by the Austin family for people with sensitive skin and other conditions that cause them to react to standard skincare products. Since 1982, the Austins have committed to creating handmade personal skin and home care products that are ethical and suitable for all ages.

To accomplish this, Sallye Ander uses organic ingredients that are paraben-free, made in the United States and never tested on animals. Sallye Ander also avoids the use of coconut and palm oils, as well as petroleum-based, and animal products. Active ingredients include eight essential oils. Among them is thyme oil that has antibacterial and antifungal properties and clove oil that increases blood flow and reduces pain.

Best All-Natural: Rooted Earth Farm Ditch the Itch Herbal Salve

Rooted Earth Farm Ditch the Itch Herbal Salve

Herbal salves have been used for centuries to calm mosquito and other bites. Rooted Earth Farm’s Ditch the Itch Herbal Salve works well for bites, stings, cuts, scrapes, and even dry skin. Its formula is mild enough to be used as a lip balm.

All of its ingredients are simple and recognizable: peppermint and lavender essential oils, organic beeswax, hemp seed and olive oils, organic castor oil, vitamin E, organic plantain, chamomile, and lavender. The appealing smell is made without added artificial fragrance.

The plantain is sustainably wildcrafted at Rooted Earth Farm in Maine. It is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory so it eases the itching and helps your bites heal faster. Organic lavender and chamomile also soothes swelling and itching while vitamin E improves healing.

Rooted Earth Farm has been making small batch herbal remedies with wild-crafted, organic, and local ingredients for more than 21 years. Ditch the Itch is available in 1-ounce, 2-ounce, and 4-ounce plastic jars, or a lip-balm-style twist up tube.

Best Zapper: My Zap-it!

My Zap-It!

When you first hear that a plastic gadget that administers a small electrical shock can work as a mosquito bite treatment, you might think someone is trying to pull your leg. But this simple technology has been tested in a controlled clinical setting and proven to reduce itching and swelling in about 90% of those who used it within five minutes of treatment.

The Zap-it Mosquito Bite Relief gadget uses a piezoelectric crystal to create the electrical charge when squeezed, much the same as the spark generated in a barbeque lighter, so no batteries are needed. The small electric shock works by reducing excess production of histamine, and therefore the associated redness and itching. Because the manufacturer recommends five to ten clicks for each bite, Zap-it is not practical when you have a lot of bites, but it may bring you relief when you have just a few to manage. It works best when used immediately after you’ve been bitten, although some people find it’s also effective on day-old bites. It is small and designed to be carried as a key chain for easy quick use anytime and anywhere you get bitten.

It's meant to last for at least 1,000 bites or stings, and although you can feel the small electric shock but that it is not painful or uncomfortable. Because it involves an electrical charge, it’s not recommended for children under four years of age, for people wearing a heart pacemaker, or for those with epilepsy. 

There are a number of other more expensive plastic gadgets on the market that generate a similar spark, some with batteries and some without. But there’s no evidence that the more expensive versions work better or more quickly.

Best Extractor: Bug Bite Thing Suction Tool

Bug Bite Thing Suction Tool

Your body’s histamine response is triggered by the proteins in a mosquito’s saliva. So it makes sense that if you can draw out the saliva and its associated proteins soon after you’re bitten, then you’ll have less swelling and itching. That’s the idea behind the Bug Bite Thing Suction Tool.

When you experience just a few bites, you simply place the tool over the bite and draw back the plunger as you would a syringe and then hold for 10 to 20 seconds. It’s so simple even younger children can operate it. The tool itself is made of lightweight plastic and requires no batteries so you can pop it in your pack for your next camping trip, plus it's zero-waste.

Final Verdict

Our top pick for dealing with insect bites is the Badger Aloe Vera Gel (view on REI), because it has a slew of certifications including Fair Trade and Leaping Bunny. If you want a zero-waste option that won’t run out, give the Bug Bite Thing (view on REI) a try. 

What to Look for in Mosquito Bite Treatments

Ingredients

You may need to try more than one treatment before you find what works best for you. “For itching, I usually suggest antihistamines such as Benadryl which is [over the counter], and topical steroids such as cortisone,” explains Dr. Chacon. “For severe bug bites, usually a higher potency steroid prescription is better.”

Avoid treatments that contain phenol. Also known as carbolic acid, at higher concentrations phenol is toxic and corrosive and known to cause skin irritation. It is used as a disinfectant and to preserve cadavers. While disinfecting a bite is important, that can be accomplished with soap and water or tea tree oil just as well.

FAQs

How do you prevent scarring from mosquito bites?

“The number one way to prevent scarring from any bites or rashes is to avoid scratching,” says Dr. Chacon. “Scratching often leads to bleeding which leads to a wound healing response in which fibroblasts form a lattice of scar tissue that leads to discoloration and disfiguration.”  

If you can’t stop scratching, be sure to choose a product that eliminates the itch.

Are there any products you should avoid putting on mosquito bites?

“I recommend avoiding alcohol,” says Dr. Chacon. “Of course it is necessary to cleanse the area after a mosquito bite, however this can be done with gentle soap and lukewarm water instead.”

Are there any home remedies that can treat mosquito bites?

There are a number of simple ingredients in your kitchen that might do the trick, but the response is different for everyone. “Aloe vera may help to soothe the area and stimulate faster wound healing,” Dr. Chacon says.

You can also use good, old-fashioned ice wrapped in a wash cloth for 15 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and to provide some short-term relief from itchiness.  

Inexpensive baking soda used for cooking and cleaning can be made into a paste with water and applied to individual bites. Not only can it provide itch relief, but it also has antibacterial properties.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Lorraine Wilde grew up swatting a range of biting insects in rural Michigan. She and her family have also tested a number of products while camping and river rafting in the Pacific Northwest and the Southwestern United States. Lorraine holds a Master’s degree in environmental science and is a firm believer that — together — our healthy, informed and environmentally-conscious choices can protect our planet.

Dr. Anna H. Chacon, MD is a board certified dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston, Florida. Originally from Miami, Dr. Chacon has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has been published in JAAD, Archives of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology, and Cutis.

View Article Sources
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  2. Fostini, Anna C. MD. et al. “Beat the bite: pathophysiology and management of itch in mosquito bites.” Itch. DOI:10.1097/itx.0000000000000019

  3. Sur R, Nigam A, Grote D, Liebel F, Southall MD. “Avenanthramides, polyphenols from oats, exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-itch activity.” Arch Dermatol Res. DOI:10.1007/s00403-008-0858-x. PMID: 18461339.

  4. Evaluation of Automatic Class III Designation (De Novo) for ZAP-IT!FDA.gov. 

  5. Drake D. “Antibacterial activity of baking soda.Compend Contin Educ Dent Suppl. PMID: 12017929.