112 Mosquito Bites: The ultimate anti-itch experiment
My husband and I recently attended a wedding held on the top of a hill near a lake. The ceremony was beautiful and the campfire reception was similarly heartwarming. Weddings are the best, because everyone is so happy when celebrating love. Nothing could have ruined the evening, but one not-so-awesome aspect of this particular ceremony was the MAN-EATING mosquitoes. In usual fashion, I did not plan ahead far enough to make or bring bug spray, and boy did I pay.
Even though I wore pants and long sleeves, I still managed to receive over 100 bug bites (I counted). I woke up four times during the night in itchy pain because my legs were on fire with bites. Without prompting from me, my very sweet husband got in his vehicle at 2am to drive to the store and purchase me anti-itch cream. However, he soon remembered our normally 24-hour Wal-Mart closes at midnight on Saturdays to reopen at noon on Sunday. I had resigned myself to a night of little sleep, but my husband was determined to help. He went downstairs for a several minutes then came back upstairs with a basil plant and some honey. He had looked up how to handle mosquito bites in a DIY fashion, and an opportunity was born. Even though the effects of 100+ mosquito bites is uncomfortable, how often does a person have so many test subjects sitting on their body at once? I tried four different natural options and two pharmaceutical options on my ever-growing red spots, and a clear winner emerged. Read on to find which one took the cake!
Natural Option 1: Rub basil leaves on the bites
We just so happen to have a basil plant growing in our backyard, so this was an easy option to try. While the smooth texture and cool temperature of the leaf felt soothing to my itchiness while I was using it, the effects didn’t last long. Plus, I was sad that a perfectly good leaf was had to be thrown away when a cold wash cloth probably would have had the same effect.
Natural Option 2: Lavender essential oil and shea butter
My essential oils phone app told me that lavender oil is good for itchiness caused by bugs, so I tried it with some lotion I had made from shea butter. The concoction did seem to help a little, but the effects were somewhat weak and didn’t last as long as some of the other options I tried. Given that many commercial anti-itch creams work to dry bites, perhaps lavender oil with a different carrier oil (or no carrier oil) would have worked better.
Verdict: Okay, but not the best
Natural Option 3: Honey
Just like the basil leaf, honey had a cooling sensation that took the bite off the bites. I left it on for about 20-30 minutes, then washed it off with warm water. I didn’t really itch while the honey was on, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to scratch because the stickiness of the honey would transfer to my hands. I did feel a little better when done, but I also had to scrub to clean off all the residue. Unfortunately, the scrubbing reminded me I was itchy, so in a sense I was back to square one. Still, I’d use honey again in a pinch.
Verdict: Decent, but messy.
Natural Option 4: Water, baking soda, and bentonite clay
Wellness Mama is one of my favorite bloggers, and this recipe came directly from her website. While less sticky than honey, this concoction of baking soda, salt, water, and bentonite clay was also kind of messy. The consistency was a creamy paste; however, it didn’t “soak in” to my skin like commercial options generally do. I didn’t have witch hazel on hand, so the recipe as posted by Wellness Mama was incomplete. Even so, of all the different mixtures I tried, this one worked the best! I didn’t itch while it was on, and even after wiping it off my skin felt soothed. The effects didn’t last forever, of course, but this will be one of my go-to choices for anti-itch in the future. Wellness Mama also has a anti-itch spray recipe posted on her blog. I didn’t have the ingredients so was unable to try it myself, but I bet it would cause less mess than this cream and probably be similarly effective.
Verdict: Winner! While a little messy, the potency satisfied the itchiness I felt for a decent period of time.
Commercial Option 1: Calamine Lotion
I used calamine as a kid, so it reminds me of family vacations at the lake and long summer nights playing outside. While nostalgic, the whole reason to stay away from calamine is the chemicals found within it. For comparison’s sake, though, I had to give it a try. The lotion we bought comes out of the bottle pink and has a strong smell to it, which right away makes me wonder what harmful ingredients were added to this lotion’s recipe. For me, the calamine worked about as well as the honey did, though the calamine was much less messy. However, even while I was applying the lotion, I couldn’t help but wonder what harmful ingredients I was adding to my body.
Verdict: Decent, but chemical-laden
Commercial Option 2: Gold Bond
When my husband told me he bought me Gold Bond, I was surprised. For some reason, I thought Gold Bond was a brand of denture cream. Not sure where I got that? Anyway, the cream was white and didn’t have much of a smell to it — a win. In my estimation, Gold Bond worked the second best of all the options I tried. So, not quite as good as the clay mixture but better than the honey. Also, I can’t lie. When I woke up in the middle of the night itching, I reached for this less messy choice over the natural options. Call me crazy (or lazy), but ease, cleanliness, and exhaustion won out at 3am.
Verdict: Worked second best, but ingredients are not natural and potentially harmful.
Other helpful methods
Distraction: Generally speaking, the less I thought about my itches, the less I itched. Focusing on other activities allowed me to focus less on the physical discomfort I was experiencing.
Time: If time heals all wounds, it heals mosquito bites, too. By day three most of the itchiness was gone. In about a week, almost all of the bumps had disappeared. If you have really good self-control and can refrain from scratching bites that itch, you may not need anything to help soothe you.