How do I Treat Swelling from Bug Bites?

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  • Written By: Caitlin Shih
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2018
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Most cases of swelling from bug bites are minor and will pass on their own within several weeks, if not days, but there are also plenty of simple treatments that can expedite the process. Washing the area quickly after being bitten is normally effective in accelerating the healing process so swelling will go down as soon as possible. Ice packs or any sort of cold will almost universally aid in reducing swelling, and a homemade baking soda paste may also be applied onto the bite to reduce the symptoms. If swelling does not respond to these home remedies, use antihistamines or anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medicines. Severe swelling that may be caused by an allergic reaction tends to be much rarer, but it will typically require medical help.

Cleaning the bug bite as soon as possible will help keep the area clear of infection. Soap and water will often be enough. Pat the area dry with a towel to reduce the possibility of tissue paper debris getting clogged in the bite. If you do develop an infection, antibiotics may be necessary.

Ice packs of any sort are often the simplest and quickest way to reduce swelling from bug bites. This can include cold compresses, cloths filled with ice, or anything that will lower the temperature of the area and cause the blood vessels to constrict. Don't keep the ice in contact with your skin for more than ten minutes.


You can make a baking soda paste to apply to the bite area. Aim for a three-to-one ratio of baking soda to water. As it dries, the paste will relieve swelling as well as other symptoms of bug bites, such as itching, and you can apply it up several times a day. This treatment is mild and safe to use on children or those with sensitive skin.

Over-the-counter medications can also help reduce swelling. Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, will usually be enough to help, but in worse cases, take antihistamines.

Severe swelling due to an allergic reaction is much rarer, but usually requires prompt medical attention when it does occur. Excessive swelling can occur either in the general area of the bite, such as the arm, or in the face, lips, or tongue. This will usually accompany other symptoms, such as feeling lightheaded or a breakout of hives.


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Post 1

Cortisone cream is usually the most common treatment for swollen bug bites. There are exceptions, however.

Last summer was awful for mosquitoes where I live, and I'm sensitive to them, anyway. All mosquito bites swell and itch like crazy on me. I've been that way all my life.

I was at home (in the house) one Sunday afternoon, when a mosquito nailed me on the middle finger of my left hand. It got me right in my first knuckle. It started itching and then swelling, and then the tip starting turning blue and I couldn't bend it!

Thank the Lord, the urgent care clinic was open and I went there. The doc looked at it and said, "This is from

a *mosquito*?" Yep. So, he sent me to the pharmacy to get a scrip for a prednisone course and gave me a Benadryl injection. I got home and crashed. When I woke up, my finger was considerably better, praise God!

I'm still not sure why I had that reaction. The doc speculated it was because of where it got me, and that makes as much sense as anything. I hate mosquitoes!

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