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My 5yo doesn't seem to have a problem with mosquito bites but the 3yo has severe reactions. This keeps him up at night scratching at the bites and crying a lot.

The obvious answer is don't let him get bitten and we do everything possible to avoid that. However, once he's bitten what can you suggest to ease his discomfort until the bites naturally recede?

  • Definitely use insect repellent. Mosquito bites can transmit dangerous diseases, including West Nile virus. – Joe Sep 29 '14 at 17:19
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    Hey, he sounds like me! I get the worst reactions to mosquito bites, not sure why. Cold things or numbing sprays work the best. Also you can have him wear socks on his hands to sleep in to help the scratching issue. I always scratch mine in my sleep without thinking about it. – Bobo Sep 29 '14 at 18:04
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    By the way, concerning repellants: my wife swears by this one we get at REI called "Natrepel", which as the name suggests purports to be based on non-artificial substances. It also smells decently. She is a mosquito magnet when unprotected, so if she thinks this stuff is good, then it may be worth trying. – Ryan Reich Sep 29 '14 at 23:14
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If you get to the bite quickly enough, AfterBite can work miracles. After the fact, our family uses Solarcaine which includes a mild anesthetic and also cools the skin. In terms of preventing bleeding and scabbing, preventing scratching is key, so anything that reduces the itch at the beginning will help. Also, once a bite is scratched, the healing damage from the scratch will itch again tomorrow. You may also consider an antihistamine cream or a system antihistamine (eg Benedryl) at bedtime, in a child appropriate dose, both to ensure a good night's sleep tonight and to reduce tomorrow's itching and misery caused by scratching.

After some camping trips in which I got covered in bites, I discovered that even the mildest scratching slows healing. Bites I couldn't reach (between my shoulder blades) drove me insane but healed in a day or two. Bites I couldn't reach in public (say, on my stomach) healed in a week or two. Bites I could absent-mindedly scratch (on my wrist) lasted for over a month and were uncomfortable the whole time. I now put a bandaid over any bite simply to prevent myself from scratching it.

Some parents swear that patting a bug bite - reasonably firmly but not a slap - brings all the same relief of scratching but without causing damage. A toddler can be taught to pat instead of to scratch, they say, and I have seen kids who do this. We didn't try it ourselves, though.

One major advantage of a small child is suggestibility. The magical parental medical treatments in our house included "a warm cloth" to be held against a bruise or other sore spot and "a cold cloth" for fever and the like. It is amazing what these items, offered by someone who loves you and says they will help, can in fact help with. For one of my children, who swelled up visibly not only from bug bites but also from Solarcaine, I once said "tell your hand not to swell up like that." With some encouragement, the toddler faced the offending hand and delivered a stern verbal order. Within half an hour the swelling was down, and every time a bug bite started to swell, a quick order (from the owner of the hand, not me) took care of it. I can't say the same is guaranteed to work for you, but it can't hurt to try, right?

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    +1 for the last paragraph. I've seen this work on my nephews too and it's amazing stuff. – Bobo Sep 29 '14 at 18:03
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    Last paragraph: "Do you want Mummy/Daddy to kiss it better?" seems to be a similar idea. Although I can imagine that possibly not working as well for mosquito bites as bumps/scratches. – Andrew Morton Sep 29 '14 at 20:13
  • I've found that lightly rubbing the bite with the pad of my finger rather than scratching with the nail is effective at relieving the itch but doesn't seem to make the bite stay around for much longer. I don't get really bad reactions so YMMV. This sounds similar to the patting technique you've described Chrys. – Mike D. Sep 30 '14 at 3:38
  • +1 for AfterBite. I'm similar to the OP's kid; mosquito bites swell into a quarter-sized bulge. If I can catch them fast enough, AfterBite keeps them from swelling and handles a lot of the itch short-term. But once the itch returns after that, it doesn't work again and I have to go with something else – Izkata Sep 30 '14 at 4:15
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If you are in the states there are several spray on remedies which seem to work pretty well and you can find them in most drugstores. If you want something more natural my family remedy is used tea bags, fresh but cooled. You press them against the bite for 5 minutes or so. I don't know why but it seems to work.

Really though if your kid is a skeeter magnet (been there when I was young) tea bags just won't do, get the spray or he'll be head to toe in tea bags. Or just let him get bitten a lot, I got bit so much I developed an immunity to it, although it was pretty unpleasant for awhile!

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Where I live we have two seasons, Winter and Mosquito, so based on decades of experience the best thing is to avoid getting bitten (ounce of prevention = pound of cure) so try:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants etc. You can put mosquito repellent onto the clothes if you are worried about your child's skin reacting to DEET.
  • Avoid going out in the dusk/dawn or shortly after a rain.
  • Avoid walking through grass, or keep the grass in your yard cut short (the mosquitos will hide in moist grass & will get stirred up if you move through).
  • Remove standing water on your property.
  • Use citronella candles or mosquito coils spaced judiciously around your child's play area.

Understanding that you can't avoid mosquitoes 100% of the time, if bitten you can treat the bite with:

  • A product like Afterbite
  • Dry soap
  • Vinegar

To be honest the best long-term solution for me was to get so badly bitten by mosquitoes one summer that I developed an immunity. They still annoy me when they fly into my nose/ears/eyes but I don't react to the bites themselves.

  • To add to these excellent ideas; where I live there are mosquitos every evening in summer. So we have fly wire on all windows and doors which are open at night. If you can't do that put a mosquito net over your kid's bed (they love those things, play for hours in there). We have a garden pond and the fish eat the larvae. Larvae also gather in the rain barrel, and I get them out in a bucket and feed them to the fish as a treat. Since we got the fish we have a lot less bother. We are thinking about getting the deck wired in, so we can sit there all evening. – RedSonja Sep 30 '14 at 13:19
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IME the susceptibility to mosquito bites is different from child to child and is greater in smaller children.

  1. Tell your child that it's best to ignore those bites. (It can't right now, but it's still the right thing to teach.)

  2. Wait. (It will get better the oder he becomes.)

Yes, you can apply a lot of pastes and other stuff, but IMO this just makes the issue bigger.

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    Just want to point out that it won't necessarily get better. I get horrible reactions to mosquito bites and it hasn't gotten any better as I get older. – Bobo Sep 29 '14 at 18:06
  • @Bobo: Yes, certainly. It's not only different from child to child, but also from adult to adult. I considered this as given. One of my kids (a teen, currently) is a mosquito magnet and gets worse swellings than the others do. But he suffers them with dignity, and has learned to try to avoid scratching. IMO he learned this because we did not make a fuss about every bite he got when he was little. – sbi Sep 30 '14 at 9:58
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My child had some rashes where mosquitoes bit him - and his pediatrician told us to not use repellant all the time, so we had to mosquito-proof his bedroom. I made fine mesh panels with neodymium magnets along the wooden rim (the window frame was made of iron, so the magnets had a strong grip, and were easy to remove.

I also bought two of those electrical mosquito tennis rackets (they break easy), and would hunt down the eventual mosquito that entered the bedroom from another room every night (it is rather empowering to be able to hunt those suckers, instead of being just a huge milkshake).

One thing I learned, the bugs like to hide between the clothes in the wardrobe / closet. A quick beating on the hanging clothes and they go flying, then its zapping time.

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We use these citronella bracelets and (for us at least) they work great. As long as they don't get too wet you can even take them off, stow them in a plastic bag, and use them again for a day or two (our rule of thumb is when you stop smelling the citronella, replace it.)

Once our 3 year old gets bitten (he reacts pretty badly, too), we make a big deal about "removing the itch" with cold water and bandaids. For the kids, it's more about the emotional aspects and receiving proper attention to their injuries. We also have some made-up songs we sing about not scratching, it seems to work in that I hear him singing it to himself when he's got a big old bite on his elbow or whatever.

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