What Can I Do About Mosquito Bites?

My 2 1/2-year-old son swells up badly from mosquito bites. The red areas itch and last over a week, and once he scratches them they become sores that last even longer. Is there anything I can put on them to make them heal faster or be less itchy? Oral antihistamines make my son too sleepy. Also, what do you recommend for a repellent? At his age I want to avoid DEET if possible.


Jennifer Trachtenberg

Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg is a board-certified pediatrician and a fellow member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is on the... Read more

Some children have more severe reactions to bug bites than others. If your child's bites are extremely itchy and inflamed, try applying one percent cortisone cream three to four times a day. Calamine or Aveeno creams can be helpful for the itch as well. If he has scratched them and they look infected (with pus or scabs), try an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin. There are also some prescription antihistamines that are much less sedating than the over-the-counter variety. Ask your doctor. It also helps to keep a child's finger nails short when he has bites. And if he develops fever or if one particular bite becomes larger, redder and more painful, see your doctor. It may have become severely infected, in which case your child will need a prescription antibiotic. For repellant, the DEET-containing products are the most effective, but for young children I recommend a concentration of 10 percent DEET or less to avoid absorption through the skin.

For more information, see my article on mosquito bite first aid.

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