Don't scratch that itch: Experts say scratching bug bites 'the worst thing you can do'

CLEVELAND - While we might be tempted to scratch an incredibly itchy mosquito bite this summer, experts from the Cleveland Clinic say that's one of the worst things you can do. 

"When the mosquito bites, its releases histamine and histamine causes itching," Melissa Piliang, M.D., a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic. "The more you scratch, the more histamine that gets released and the more it itches.” 

Instead of scratching, Dr. Piliang recommends using hydrocortisone on the bite two to three times a day -- which can kill the itch and speed up healing times.

Chamomile lotion can also help to relieve pesky itching.

►Related: What's bugging you? Tips to prevent and treat bug bites

According to Dr. Piliang, continually scratching at a mosquito bites puts us at risk of scratching off an outer layer of skin, which could lead to possible infection. She advices that affected areas should be kept clean and covering with antibiotic ointment and bandage until it heals.

If it gets bigger and more tender after a few days, it's time to see medical attention.

Putting things like alcohol, witch hazel and toothpaste on bug bites are widely popular, however not recommended. Dr. Piliang says that all these items will do is dry out the skin and make it itch even more. However, there is a one lesser-known trick that can help ease the itch.

“A good alternative is to grab a piece of ice and put it right on that itchy bite,” said Dr. Piliang. “Ice kills itch. If you’re at the pool, you probably have a cooler with ice in it or a cold drink you can put right on there and that will really kill that itch.”

Dr. Piliang said prevention is best and recommends using a product with DEET before heading outside. Also, for those who plan on hiking in a wooded area or being outside at dusk, it’s best to cover up the skin with pants and long sleeves to shield it from both mosquitoes and ticks.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.

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