Health & Wellness

Swarmed! 8 tips on best mosquito bite treatments and repellents

After watching swarming mosquitoes attack NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders’ arm during a TODAY test of a phone app touted as a bug repellent, you might be wondering how best to soothe those bothersome bites (or at the very least, he might.)

Dr. Laura Ferris, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh, offered up some tips for quieting the itch.

  • If it’s during the day, you might try an over-the-counter antihistamine like loratadine or cetirizine.
  • If it’s bedtime and you don’t mind feeling drowsy, you might go for the more powerful diphenhydramine.
  • Another option is topical steroids. The OTC versions contain 1 percent hydrocortisone and aren’t that powerful.
  • If you’ve got a lot of bites, you can go to your doctor and get a prescription for a stronger medication that will help reduce swelling and itching.
Kerry Sanders' arm is not doing so well after an app fail in the midst of 5,000 mosquitoes.

Of course the best way to deal with bites is to avoid getting them.

  • Mosquitoes are most active starting at dusk, so you can mostly avoid them by staying inside then.
  • While citronella has been touted as providing protection from mosquitoes, it hasn’t proven to be all that effective.
  • Certain topical repellents have been proven to ward off mosquitoes. Chief among them are those containing the chemical DEET.
  • A more natural alternative that has been shown to help is the combination of lemon and eucalyptus oil.

If you’re going to be in the sun and plan on wearing sunscreen, remember that while you should reapply sunscreen every two hours, you should apply a repellent only once. While it takes a lot of repellent to get a toxic exposure, one way to get into trouble is with multiple applications in a single day. And remember, unlike sunscreen, repellents need not be applied to every single square millimeter of skin to be effective.

Also: Don't stick your hand in a tank full of mosquitoes. We're talking to you, Kerry Sanders.


Linda Carroll is a regular contributor to and She is co-author of "The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic” and the recently released “Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing’s Greatest Rivalry.”