Avoiding, treating mosquito bites

From Wikimedia commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aedes_aegypti_E-A-Goeldi_1905.jpg


by Catherine Haug, August 16, 2014 (Image, right, form Wikimedia Commons)

Those dreaded bugs of summer – mosquitos – can drive you crazy and almost make you long for winter. Not only do their bites itch incessantly, but they can also spread disease like encephalitis, yellow fever, malaria, West Nile virus, and dengue. What can you do?

Minimize the number of mosquitos on/near your property:

  • One of the great attractants for mosquitos is standing water: mud puddles that never drain or dry up, pet bowls, gutters, garbage and recycling bins, spare tires, watering buckets, and bird baths. Drain all those that you can, frequently.Replace standing-water pet bowls and bird baths with types that bubble and circulate the water.
  • Plant marigolds around your property, as mosquitos do not like their scent.
  • Build a dragonfly pond to encourage dragonflies in your yard, as mosquitos are their prime summertime prey (see National Wildlife Federation and Canadian Wildlife Federation for instructions (4));
  • Attract dragonflies by including water plants in your landscaping (5);
  • Bats are a natural enemy of mosquitos; consider adding bat houses around your property, especially if you live near a pond or lakeshore.
  • Avoid use of chemical repellants, as they have toxicity issues for humans and pets; one in particular – permethrin – is especially toxic to cats. Natural repellents such as citronella and citronella candles are quite effective.

Clothing to protect your body:

Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing to keep you cool in the summer, and protect your skin from the bugs. This includes

  • Long sleeved shirts;
  • Long skirts or pants;
  • Hats can protect your face and scalp from sunburn and bugs;
  • Socks will protect your feet – but change them every day, as sweat (that has begun to ferment from the action of bacteria on your skin) is very attractive to mosquitos.

Natural repellants:

Chemical repellants like DEET are known to be toxic, but their are natural repellants that are effective:

  • Vanillin* (synthetic vanilla flavoring) mixed with olive oil is good for your skin, smells great and repels mosquitos (2);
  • Cinnamon leaf oil;
  • Catnip oil (and your cats will love you);
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil;
  • Citronella: wash with citronella-scented soap, and burn citronella candles around your patio;
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamin): add this to your daily supplements. Mercola recommends, “one vitamin B1 tablet a day from April through October, and then adding 100 mg of B1 to a B100 Complex daily.” (1)

*NOTE: vanillin is naturally present on the skin of the vanilla pod, but curing of the pod prior to extraction of vanilla extract depletes 98% of the vanillin (3). Thus synthetic vanillin is your best bet  for bug-repellant use.

Natural treatments for mosquito bites

The following is from Mercola’s article (1). Common kitchen ingredients:

  • Cinnamon: In addition to possibly repelling mosquitoes, cinnamon has antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Cinnamon oil is the best version for this use.
  • Chamomile, the most soothing herb of all, whether used in a tea or applied to the skin; rich in the bioflavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin;
  • Raw organic honey: An especially powerful variety is Manuka honey from New Zealand, made from bees that feed on flowers of the Manuka bush, also known as the “Tea Tree”. (Cat’s note: while I recommend local honey – made by local bees – for general consumption, keeping some Manuka honey on-hand for bites is a good idea – or mix some tea-tree oil into local honey);
  • Cucumbers: Helpful for reducing swelling;
  • Basil: Contains camphor and thymol, two compounds that can relieve itching; crush up some fresh herb and apply directly to the bite, or buy the essential oil;
  • Lemon and lime: Both have anti-itch, antibacterial, and antimicrobial actions; avoid applying citrus juices to your skin when outdoors, however, as blistering can occur when exposed to sunlight;
  • Peppermint: The cooling sensation can block other sensations, such as itching, and provide temporary relief; either crushed fresh leaves or the essential oil will do;
  • Tea bags: Swiping a cooled tea bag over your bites can help, as the tannins in the tea act as an astringent, to reduce swelling;
  • Apple cider vinegar: Add two to three cups to your bath and soak for 30 minutes; the acidity helps relieve itching;
  • Baking soda: Dissolve in your bath and soak for 30 minutes;
  • Ice: hold an ice bag against your skin where there are bites;
  • Heat is also effective. An easy method is to hold the back of a heated spoon to your skin at the bite – just be sure the spoon is not too hot. Holding the spoon in hot tap water is works well.

The following may not be common in every kitchen or medicine cabinet, but are effective:

  • Lavender oil: One of the most popular essential oils for its calming scent, lavender is soothing and antimicrobial. I like to add this to my bath, or use lavender-oil scented soap.
  • Aloe Vera: Contains more than 130 active compounds and 34 amino acids that are beneficial to your skin;
  • Calendula: An herb with soothing, moisturizing, and rejuvenating properties;
  • Tea Tree oil: Helpful for healing cuts, burns, infections, and a multitude of other skin afflictions; also a good antimicrobial and antifungal
  • Neem oil: Effective against fungal conditions, boils, eczema, and ringworm, and it would undoubtedly help an insect bite as well;
  • Jewelweed: A wildflower that grows throughout in the Eastern US, helpful for reducing itching from many types of skin ailments, including poison oak and ivy;
  • Witch hazel: Make a paste out of witch hazel and baking soda, and apply directly to your bite to reduce swelling.


  1. Mercola: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2099/12/31/mosquito-repellent.aspx
  2. Pub Med, article Repellancy of volatile oils from plants against three mosquito vectors by Tawatsin, et.al (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11469188)
  3. Honey and Spice blog on vanillin (honeyandspice.wordpress.com/nitty-gritty/vanillin)
  4. National Wildlife Federation, on attracting dragonflies (nwf.org/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife/Gardening-Tips/Attracting-Dragonflies.aspx) and Canadian Wildlife Federation (cwf-fcf.org/en/discover-wildlife/resources/faq/faqs/how-can-i-encourage.html)
  5. Lilies Water Gardens: lilieswatergardens.co.uk/blog/index.php/2011/03/plants-to-encourage-dragonflies-and-damselflies)

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