How To Prevent and Treat Mosquito Bites

Do you know which blood type is more likely to be bit by mosquitos? Why does body size impact your chances of being bit by bugs? Do natural remedies actually work for preventing mosquito bites? Learn all of this and more as Dr. Ingraham explains everything you need to know about mosquito bites.


News Reporter: Guess what April showers bring? Hm. Mosquitoes. This time of year, outdoor activities are unavoidable, so what do you need to know to protect yourself from those pests? Dr. Sherry Ingraham with Advanced Dermatology is here to help us out. Good morning to you.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Good morning.

News Reporter: Thanks for being here.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Thank you.

News Reporter: Doesn't it seem like there's always someone in the crowd the who never gets bitten and they're just like, "What's all the fuss?" What is that? Why are some people more susceptible?

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: It's interesting. Since about 2014 we've learned more. People who are blood type O get bitten about twice as often as people-

News Reporter: So that's my problem.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: ... who are A or B, there you go. Also people who drink alcohol, and they don't know why alcohol is an issue, but we do know body size is an issue. Adults get bitten more. They put off more carbon dioxide.

News Reporter: So don't drink if you're outside.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Don't drink so much. Well, you've got to balance it out.

News Reporter: Right.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: But people who actually exercise more put off more carbon dioxide and lactic acid. So larger, busy, active people. Also we know pregnant women, their body temperature goes up, they release more CO2, they get bitten more often. So you need to be especially careful if you're pregnant not only because of Zika but because you're more likely to be bitten. So we really need to take that into account.

News Reporter: And we do really need to think about Zika, I believe, because-

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Absolutely.

News Reporter: ... people are traveling to Houston now. They've been diagnosed with it. All it takes is that mosquito to bite them and then that mosquito comes to us.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Right.

News Reporter: We do need to be careful. What about products? There are so many products. You can get companies to come. Is there anything that you feel is tried and true and safe?

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: DEET. DEET has been around since the 1950s. It was actually derived by the US military in the '40s. So it's been around since the '40s, it's tried and true and tested and safe. And I tell my patients, "Look, we know DEET is safe." I know people sometimes have concerns it's a chemical. We also know that there are very well documented cases of arboreal transmitted diseases right now and so it's more important that we use these tried and true tested chemicals and prevent disease.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: DEET is basically based upon length of time of application for the concentration. So if you're going to only be outside for an hour or two, use a DEET of 10% or less. If you were going to be out longer you need to go up into the 20s. You can also picaridin and picaridin is what is in this Cutter Advanced. And that's more of a European chemical. It is very safe so you can use picaridin as well or you can use oil of lemon eucalyptus if you want something with a more natural name. However, oil of lemon eucalyptus cannot be applied to children under three.

News Reporter: Okay.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Children under two months of age, nothing should be applied to them, just long sleeves.

News Reporter: And here's an idea too. You can even make your own. You can use a little bit of citronella, some lemon grass, some peppermint oil, sort of put some Jojoba oil so that you, I guess, are able to put it on more easily. Spray that on.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Yeah. These two products I got at Whole Foods actually have that mixture in them. The only caution is they're not as effective. If you're going to go out for a few minutes maybe, but if you're really going to be outside, especially with this Zika pending, I would use a DEET based product.

News Reporter: The one big challenge I always get in with my children is that once they do get that mosquito bite, if one sneaks through the repellent, is that they are just scratching it and I always worry about infection. What do you tell people who are just, "Ooh, I just want to scratch."

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: If you can't avoid the scratch, get a little plastic Ziploc bag, put some ice in it and ice it. It will decrease the spread and the depth of the histamine penetration and they won't get that itches more. It's a counter-irritant. Also products with menthol. There's some over the counter products with menthol. Over the counter steroids like Cortaid, immediately start applying that twice a day. If you get bitten a lot, you want to take an over the counter antihistamine like Benadryl or Zyrtec to avoid the itch. Because really people come to see us when they get infected.

News Reporter: And I even put lavender oil on there sometimes and that seems to kind of help ease the pain.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Yeah. Absolutely.

News Reporter: What about, when is it time to go to the doctor if you see any type of infection or something?

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Right. If you are the type of person who gets, sometimes we see people get a voracious response to bites. They get a lot of swelling, almost like an allergic response. Go to your dermatologist. Or if you see any weeping, yellow crusting, discoloration, anything that becomes painful or streaking, that can be a sign of infection. Definitely time to go see a physician.

News Reporter: All right, Dr. Ingraham, thanks for coming in from Advanced Dermatology.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: Thank you.

News Reporter: We are ready for them.

Dr. Sherry Ingraham: We're ready.

News Reporter: Just bring it, Jose.