Hi – I’m back! Forgive the lag in blogging. I blame Peru. That place is magical.

I’ve loads to tell you about that trip – and heck, I’m not even done telling you about Kansas or my trip to Lake Placid, Florida (please try to contain your excitement). But all of that will have to wait, because presently, I want to take a piece of sandpaper or, failing that, a cheese grater, to my ankle. It’s covered in bug bites attained at Macchu Pichu, and it’s positively killing me. While I’m blessed to not suffer from allergies (unless, say, I shove my face directly into a cat and breathe in deeply, which I’m sure we’ve all done once or thrice), there is one thing I am severely allergic to: mosquito bites. They usually swell up to the size of a quarter, and have literally woken me from a restful sleep with the sting.

I took a photo of my bug-bitten ankle thinking it would be impressive, but instead it looks disappointingly normal, so I now seem like a huge wuss. Behold:

The cropping on this photo is excellent. You can see neither my hairy legs nor my wonky toe. Huzzah!

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But believe me when I tell you that, right up until the second I took this picture, it was covered with red welts from a team of incredibly industrious mosquitoes up in the Peruvian mountains. I had literally 2 inches of leg showing between my the bottom of my cuffed jeans and the top of my ankle socks, and they went for it. Yes, I realize that cropped jeans don’t necessarily look good on someone with my frame (i.e., short, pear-shaped). Perhaps the little jerks that bit me were just fashionistas trying to teach me a lesson.

One particularly brave member of their crew managed to fly up my pant leg, like a insect equivalent of Hiram Bingham, and made it up to my knee before I squashed him with a slap. I hope he finds solace in the insect afterlife knowing that his earthly remains will be a part of my jeans forever, or at least until I wash them.

I felt no small measure of sadness when I returned home and found that these bug bites are indeed the only souvenirs I have from our visit to the Inca ruins. Still, I’m not sad to see them go. If, like me, you can’t deal with mosquito bites (or any bug bite that leaves you itching and stinging), and often find yourself on the road with no drugstore in sight, here are my home remedies and cures for getting a little bit of relief. (And obviously, if you have a more severe reaction than just itching, GO TO THE DOCTOR. Duh.)

  1. Ice. It never ever occurred to me to apply an ice-pack to a bug bite, but it totally works. Granted, you’ll seem a bit melodramatic, hoisting your poor red limb up onto a table as though you had a real injury, but about 10 minutes of applying an ice pack will give you an hour or more of itch-free relief. It’s glorious.
  2. Aspirin. Instead of popping the pills, grind them up into a powder, add a drop of two of water to make a paste, and apply it to your bug bites. Leave it on overnight and wash off in the morning. Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory, and it works even topically (this also is great for big red zits. Apply the paste to red spots at night, and wash off in the morning. Hope no one sees you in the interim).
  3. Alcohol. No, no, no. Put that margarita down. That is so NOT what I meant. If you have rubbing alcohol (or any liquid that contains a high content of alcohol, like mouthwash or, hell, vodka) dab a little on the bug-bites. It should relieve the itching and will disinfect the bite (helping to prevent infection).
  4. Toothpaste. Just a dab of toothpaste (preferably the cheap, white, pasty kind) can help relieve itching of bites. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and ingredients like baking soda and menthol help to relieve the irritation. And you obviously have toothpaste with you on your trip, RIGHT?
  5. Hydrocortisone cream. I take a small tube of hydrocortisone with me wherever I go. Most of the time it never gets used, but when I actually need it, I feel absolutely brilliant for having dragged it with me. It relieves the itch and redness, and works on all manner of skin irritations, allergic reactions, and bites. I’ve also been known to dab it on zits at night to relieve redness.
  6.  Pop some Sudafed or Benadryl. It absolutely shocked me that this worked, because I’ve always sucked at biology and don’t understand the human body. But taking an antihistamine pill can relieve itching for hours – it blocks your body’s reaction to the bite, which caused the irritation in the first place. Just half a Benadryl tab worked for me for hours.
  7. Salt. Lots of sites suggest making a paste with regular old salt and some water and applying it to bug bites to relieve sting. While I’ve never tried this technique, I suspect it works: as I kid, I remember that going to beach and swimming in the ocean was always a great relief after a group of bugs had dined upon me.

For what to do when someone has a more serious reaction, check out the Mayo Clinic’s first aid guide to insect bites and stings. And as a preventative measure in the future, avoid bananas and perfume (for the record, “Bananas and Perfume” would be a great band name). Bugs are attracted to your skin when you’ve applied perfumes, hair sprays, and gels. Ditto for when you’ve eaten bananas. So try to hold off on doing either. I know. There go my weekend plans, too.

And just remember, as annoying as they are, mosquitoes clearly have an important purpose on this earth.

Full list of categories:  Advice » Somewhat Useful Info » Top Ten
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Comments (52)

  1. 29. Sep, 2011 / Ruth:

    Benadryl also makes an insect bite spray that I SWEAR by. It will make the whole area sticky, but relieves itch more or less instantly.

    And I bet the bites aren’t the only souvenir you have. You probably have a picture of you and Rand making out at Macchu Pichu too :-)

    [Reply]

    Everywhereist Reply:

    You know me well. Yes, there are make out photos. How could there not be?

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    colin Reply:

    Avon dry oil spray is a fairly good repellent. the bugs might land on your skin but then fly away as I think they dont like the feel of the oil.

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  2. 29. Sep, 2011 / Maureen:

    Well, this is going to sound pretty creepy BUT I live in Lima and was walking home from work on Tuesday when I thought I saw you and you husband. I couldn’t figure out where I recognized you from until it was too late to say something!! Craziness. Glad you enjoyed Peru, I am on my way to Machu Picchu next week!

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    That is beyond funny. I probably would have fainted had you actually recognized me, so it’s for the best. :) I loved Peru – can’t wait to go back!

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  3. 29. Sep, 2011 / Camels & Chocolate:

    Good God, if anything can ruin a good trip, it’s pesky insects. Scott and I spent three weeks in Guatemala and Honduras a couple years back, and a combination of noceums and sand flies pretty much spoiled our entire trip!

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  4. 29. Sep, 2011 / Courtney Ostaff:

    They make topical aspirin cream, Aspercreme. Good stuff.

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  5. 29. Sep, 2011 / Colleen:

    I use After Bite. It is literally the only thing that works for mosquito bites for me. Cortisone 10 and Calamine lotion do not work on bug bites for me, as well as chicken pox.

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    Kebby Reply:

    You should know that the main ingredient in “After Bite” is Ammonia. Reminds me of the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movie where the dad used Windex for every malady.

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  6. 29. Sep, 2011 / Annie:

    ohhh my goddd i thought i was the only one that reacted like that to mosquitos! my husband thinks there is something seriously wrong with me, like medically (not just in my head). and they find me wherever i am. i could be in freaking alaska, and a goddamn mosquito will find me and bite me, even if i am layered in a goose down parka and there is a meaty animal next to me.

    that kind of sounded wrong.

    [Reply]

    Everywhereist Reply:

    You mean hilarious. “That kind of sounded hilarious.” Tee hee. Meaty animals.

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    Laura Reply:

    Ha ha ha I live in Alaska and there are SO MANY MOSQUITOS! It’s not all snow and ice up here as you may think. So yes, one will find you. Along with a hundred more. I was just outside for ten minutes and got bit eight times.

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    Luci Reply:

    The mosquitos in AK are huge and terrible this year! My kids are covered with bites even AFTER I have dosed them with bug spray!

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    Kirsten Reply:

    I know this is going to be odd because it’s 3 years after the original article, but I live in Alaska and god damn it if I don’t have a line of freakin bug bites down my leg and across my ankle. They’re our state bird, don’tcha know….

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  7. 29. Sep, 2011 / Emily:

    This may sound crazy but my mosquito bite relief comes from immediately applying spit to the area. I know, I know, gross…but has always worked for me.

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Oh, please – have you read my blog? That is so not gross compared to some of the stuff I’ve written about. Really. :)

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    John G Reply:

    I’m a couple of years late with this but the bugs are still biting so I figure it is still current. The reason a mosquito/bug bite itches is because of the saliva they “inject” as part of sticking it to you. If you get to it quickly enough adding your saliva dilutes it and draws it out, at least partially, and makes it itch less. Been doing the same thing as you for years and it works.

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  8. 29. Sep, 2011 / bermtopia:

    Aveeno Anti-itch saved my sanity after an ill-fated outing of twilight golf resulted in 67 mosquito bites (you bet I counted them!)

    [Reply]

  9. 29. Sep, 2011 / Sarah R.:

    Also drenching the area in white vinegar helps relieve the itch (ok so you dont actually have to drench the site, you can just rub some on)

    [Reply]

  10. 29. Sep, 2011 / DogsOnDrugs.com:

    Wait… Are you telling us NOT to drink margaritas? (unsubscribes)

    [Reply]

    Everywhereist Reply:

    I’m just stating that margaritas will not cure bug bites. But the salt on the rim might.

    [Reply]

  11. 30. Sep, 2011 / Courtney:

    Just started reading your blog not too long ago and I love it! I especially loved this post and felt the urge to comment. I, too, am a victim of the infamous mosquito and quarter sized welts from their bites. I just moved and am now living in Charleston, SC where there is a mosquito infestation. So, thanks for the tips. Folks, at work, were starting to wonder why I scratch my legs so often!

    By the way, hope you had fun in Peru. I went there in 2007 and there is just something magical about Machu Picchu. Peru was, by far, one of my favorite trips. Can’t wait to read your posts about it.

    [Reply]

  12. 30. Sep, 2011 / Scott - Quirky Travel Guy:

    I just put a big X on the bite with my fingernail and it stops itching for good. Best home remedy ever!

    [Reply]

    Starbrite Reply:

    I do the same thing! When I was a kid I used to do the X and then apply spit. Always worked, couldn’t understand why my friends would look at me funny when i’ d suggest it or do it.

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  13. 30. Sep, 2011 / another Sarah R.:

    Oh man, has no one mentioned Ammonia? Best itch relief ever!! I spent a summer in Guatemala and bought a bottle at a hardware store (the only place I could find it) when my Itch Stick ran out. Saved my life. Seriously. Those bugs were awful!

    [Reply]

    Kebby Reply:

    That’s whats in “After Bite”, hee hee. +

    [Reply]

  14. 01. Oct, 2011 / Gray:

    Where were you with this advice last month when my feet and ankles were covered in mosquito bites in Las Vegas? I definitely would have tried toothpaste or ice had I known. The irony is that when I did finally get my hands on some Benadryl, I didn’t want to take it, because you shouldn’t drink alcohol and take Benadryl at the same time. I was like, “But..I’m in Vegas. I’m supposed to drink.” :-)

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  15. 02. Oct, 2011 / Emily in Chile:

    I am apparently the only person who didn’t know about the sand flies at Machu Picchu before my trip, so I didn’t bring bug spray. Luckily for me, I am also extremely allergic to most bug bites, so I got to enjoy reminders of my trip all over my arms (I believe there were 17 bites) for months as they turned from bumps to scabs to scars and finally disappeared. I hope your recovery is easier!

    [Reply]

  16. 04. Oct, 2011 / Susan:

    Looks like chiggers. Apply clear nail polish & it will seal off the oxygen. Itching should stop in few hours. May have to treat again in few days when seal breaks.

    [Reply]

    Everywhereist Reply:

    Ah, no, I saw the little mongrels that bit me. Run of the mill mosquitoes. Nothing interesting.

    Also, I had never heard of chiggers, so I looked them up. WHAT THE HELL, SUSAN? I’m not sleeping tonight.

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  17. 22. Dec, 2012 / cindy:

    I’m telling u I hought I was the only one wth this problem I battle wth my skin everyday of my life if its not a mossie bite its me scratching myself open 2 the point where I bleed,annoys my bf 2da max! I’ve sufferd wth this eversince childhood. 2day I sit wth plenty of dark marks on my body as a whole..alover I meanit,wish mosquitos hated me I thought 2 myself @ 1 point it must be my delicious blood that attracts them! I refer 2 mossies as my wors enemy!!! Because it itches so badly tht It comes to the point where I become unsocialble.I thank u once again for all the useful advice.cindy

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  18. 03. Jan, 2013 / raul:

    Mylanta…..yes, Mylanta! Rub it and the pain, itchy will go away in 2 minutes.

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  19. 16. May, 2013 / Liz:

    I googled – mosquito bite remedies- and your post was the third result. I am so glad I picked it! Firstly because I did have cheap toothpaste and so I’ll be able to sleep tonight and enjoy China in the morning. And second, I loved your writing and can’t wait to read more. Thanks for the help and the entertainment!

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  20. 16. May, 2013 / Duane M:

    My grandmother used to slather toothpaste all over our bug bites when I was younger. I used to think it was weird but it always worked!

    [Reply]

  21. 20. May, 2013 / jen:

    Tea tree oil is great.it stinks but it works great!

    [Reply]

  22. 06. Jun, 2013 / linda:

    I also googled mosquito bites and yours was the third one down. Lots of hits you got! I don’t have to take a trip anywhere to get these lousy bites. Right now, I’m have my wrists up in the air typing this as my palms are all red, swollen and of course itching so bad I’m wondering if I can get to sleep. The bites seem to be symmetric. If I get a bite on my left wrist, I will always get another bite on my right wrist, same with ankles, arms, anywhere. Coincidence?

    I eat a banana every morning, so I guess I will stop doing that and switch to strawberries or grapes.

    I did put on some rubbing alcohol, but no help. I was thinking of mixing up some concoction but I’m dead tired and need to work tomorrow. My housemate never gets bitten. He takes coumadin to thin his blood, wonder if there is a connection there? There is a dog in this house, but he’s been treated for fleas. Housemate wants to “bomb” my bedroom with a pesticide while I’m away for the weekend. I guess I better remove anything that I don’t want that stuff getting into and maybe strip bed even though I just washed all my linens tonight.

    Sigh…………………….I pray for sleep. To top it off, I’m itching from psoriasis of the scalp and a brand new yeast infection. What fun. How do you spell relief?

    [Reply]

  23. 11. Jun, 2013 / Alchy:

    The vodka works!!

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  24. 30. Jun, 2013 / Nina D:

    After my trip to Tunica MS, I came home with numerous mosquito bites. I found some Triple Antibiotic Ointment in my medicine cabinet, put some on and the itch stopped almost immediately. Got lots of good tips from your blog. Will try some of them also. Thanks

    [Reply]

  25. 13. Jul, 2013 / Danielle:

    I live in Canada and the Mosquitos here are crazy nice reading all theses tips sorta laughed when I saw the one with the making an x with your finger nail alot of us here do that :) I’m gonna try a bunch of these

    [Reply]

  26. 01. Aug, 2013 / Ann:

    Also googled help for mosquito bites! Love your sense of humor…sent it on to a young friend, a traveler!
    Had no idea of the bananna thing…rarely have them but my daughter in law had many left from a sponsored run with brkfst after…so gave me at least 8. Had two bananna’s today and while sitting on my patio this evening…two bites! And I hardly ever get bite’s…the bananna’s!
    I’m testing…on one I put alcohol and the other Tea Tree Oil. Think the Oil is the winner!

    [Reply]

  27. 06. Aug, 2013 / Kelly:

    Try preparation H. I put it on my granddaughter and it worked.

    [Reply]

    Geri Purdy Reply:

    Prep H works on zits too. If it can shrink a roid it can do a zit, a bite, almost anything. And the nail X really does work instantly.
    I take massive doses of B complex. they don’t like the way you smell so they don’t bite.

    [Reply]

  28. 21. Aug, 2013 / Alexis:

    I have been miserable for days with bug bites. I finally made a paste out of rubbing alcohol and salt and though it didn’t take the itch away completely, it was tolerable. I have been a nervous wreck over these bug bites and to finally have some relief was amazing. I have tried everything from witch hazel to lavender with little relief. Thank you for your list of ideas!

    [Reply]

  29. 01. Sep, 2013 / jacquelyn wells:

    thank you so much. you are very funny, too!
    did you know mosquitos are drawn to “o” blood type and other skin factors? i always wondered why i was the only one in a group of people getting eaten alive! im trying the aspirin remedy and taking benedryl. thank you!

    [Reply]

  30. 11. Sep, 2013 / LooUK:

    Loved your blog! Top result for me on a google search whilst holidaying in Scotland! The only thing I had was Olbas Oil and it did take away the sting for a few hours!

    [Reply]

  31. 14. Sep, 2013 / Janel:

    Just got back from a job fair in Houston last night. Next to convention center and parking lot is a beautiful park with a water feature which is the perfect breeding ground for flies, Mosquitos and carriers if West Nile and Peibably Ebola. I’m in my suit scratching my feet and ankles like a crack head during my interviews. Couldn’t sleep last night for the twenty mosquito bites I have so googled for some home remedies.

    I started with making X’s and Z’s with my fingernail, then rubbing alcohol.

    Those were somewhat effective. Gonna try ammonia, since I use it for my whites and linens. Then tea tree oil. I have all this stuff you guys/dolls recommended… Starting to feel like a witch doctor…?

    Love Peru too but I must’ve gone off season bc didn’t have a prob with bugs or bites. But I freaking LOVE bananas and perfume and I can’t give them up! Think Mosquitos really like my blood… Probably bc my glucose is high!

    Love the blog!

    [Reply]

  32. 12. Oct, 2013 / Hunkeman:

    OVER NIGHT TREATMENT

    This is a remedy that i have been using myself .. it works great for me and my whole family … LIKE MAGIC :D

    GARLIC .. simply cut one piece and rub its juice on the bite. It will prevent the itching 80-90% and if its still there the next day, repeat it again and that should be it .. you wont have it the 3rd day GUARANTEED !!
    God Bless ..

    [Reply]

    Maya Reply:

    I hate to tell you this but mosquito bites usually only last about 3 days anyway :)

    [Reply]

  33. 27. Dec, 2013 / Maya:

    I am sitting here on my iPad at 2:30 AM after waking up an hour and a half ago with burning legs. I pretty much look like I have chicken pox on every imaginable spot in my body. And I put repellent on! Next time I go camping I’m cooking before dark. Anyway, the ice idea works great but I wish I had something more flexible than a frozen drink bottle :/

    [Reply]

  34. 02. Jan, 2014 / Nancy W:

    Oh my blasted %#^+*£ bug bites! I live in Naples FL where noseeums and mosquitoes thrive year round. I picked up 3 mos’s when driving on The Alley and rolled the window down at the toll gate. Swarms outside!

    My bites are golf ball size. I microwave a damp washcloth for 30 sec’s and apply with clenched teeth to the bites. It kills the itch of nosees and skeeters for 2 days.

    I will try the suggested remedies. My son has nasty noseeum scars which are 5 years old.and literall Still itched for 3 years!
    His friend visited last year and wound up in the ER with a fever and a record 300+ bites!

    Not only do the bugs stink, the humidity, for me, caused severe pulmonary issues. Florida has the highest percent of pulmonary related deaths caused by high humidity.

    We are moving out West!

    [Reply]

  35. 14. Mar, 2014 / Bonnie:

    OMG, Bless you all for information that is currently working like a Pro. As I type this, calmly, I have a “dollar tree” ice pack on and wrapped again with a towel. (the kind that comes with a material cover for, not a hard sided pack, A GEL PACK Thank God.) I used the salt and water remedy and for all intensive purposes…….THE ICE WORKED SO FAST, I don’t even know if it helped. Benedryl here I come & hopefully my boyfriend can rest as peacefully as Im predicting

    I’m so grateful, no amount of insurance or medical attention could have rushed this kind of relief this fast. ICE IS THE BEST, fastest, complete way to relief I’ve found to be true. And your right, I’d never would have thought ice of all things was such a life saver regarding INSECT BITES & EXTREME REACTIONS. Thanks again!!!! Bonnie

    Why the lack of at home medicines that normally are available. We are in the middle of a huge move. We should have stayed in the local park, my skin might have faired better. Ha, ha, ha, ha!!

    I’ve been at a hotel, sleeping with the spiders I’m assuming, and woke up with 10-15 bites only elbow and upper arm. Its was a sting & then a ache and now a swollen, inflamed, mess from spider HELL. I’ve been at this “hyper spastic itching” for almost 24 hours now.

    [Reply]

  36. 14. Jul, 2014 / jess:

    Baking soda and water. make a paste. works great or so my lil guy tells me

    [Reply]

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