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Illustration by Gregg Bender | The Journal Gazette
Bites that bug

Relief for itching

– I have a long-standing fear of things that go buzz in the night.

At the moment, I bear the scars of watching fireworks, weeding the garden and even walking to the mailbox, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve awakened scratching in the middle of the night.

Doug Keenan, director of the Purdue University Extension Service in Noble County, says this summer’s weather has bred a bumper crop of mosquitoes.

“We’ve been having quite a bit of rain showers, and the water doesn’t have a chance to go away in between,” he says. “That makes an ideal situation for mosquitoes.”

David Fiess, director of the Allen County Department of Health’s vector control and environmental services, says bites itch because mosquitoes insert saliva into the body when they feast on blood. That sets off an immune reaction which causes the itch.

Use repellent to prevent bites, he says. But, short of a midnight run to the drugstore, what can you do for bite relief? Here are some methods to try with things you might have around the house.

Cold and hot. Ice or a cold wet washcloth numbs the nerves and reduces swelling, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Hot tap water drives the itch away, according to P eoplesPharmacy.com.

Antihistamines. The Mayo Clinic’s site also recommends taking an over-the-counter allergy pill to combat itch. Drowsiness may occur, so avoid warned-against activities, such as driving and operating machinery, the site says.

Aspirin. Crush one with a couple of drops of water and apply to the bite or rub an aspirin over wet skin, according to Reader’s Digest’s Web site at RD.com. Aspirin cuts swelling and has anesthetic properties.

Alcohol. Dab rubbing alcohol – or mouthwash, vodka or high-alcohol hand sanitizer – on the bite, according to the People’s Pharmacy site. Alcohol also kills germs, helping prevent infection from scratching. But if skin is already broken, alcohol will sting, Fiess says.

Baking soda. Grandma says make a paste of one part water (or vinegar) and two parts baking soda. Allow it to dry on the bite. White toothpaste that contains baking soda or mint is also recommended by FarmersAlmanac.com.

Onion. Rub the cut side on the itchy spot. Enzymes break down chemicals secreted in response to a bite, according to PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Meat tenderizer. This has appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association as a remedy for insect stings. Make a paste with tenderizer and water or vinegar and apply immediately.

Banana peel. Rub the inside of the peel on a bite, according to FarmersAlmanac.com and several other websites.

Herbal oils. Lemon oil has anti-inflammatory properties, so place a slice or juice on the bite, according to FarmersAlmanac.com.

Other herbs to try include basil, thyme, mint and chamomile. The site has recipes.

Your saliva. The swat-and-spit method might do in a pinch, says the People’s Pharmacy site.

rsalter@jg.net

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