Relieve Your Itchy Mosquito Bites With This Medicine Cabinet Essential

When a female mosquito feeds on human blood, it's not just a one-way exchange. As the insect breaks through the skin with its needle-like mouthpart, it draws our blood while simultaneously dispensing saliva back into our body (via Cleveland Clinic). Our immune system responds to a mosquito's saliva with the release of histamine in order to get rid of the intruder. In essence, our body undergoes a mild allergic reaction, which is what makes pesky mosquito bites so darn itchy.

Unless a person begins developing additional symptoms, there is usually no need to see a doctor to treat a mosquito bite. Instead, there are many at-home methods one can use to help alleviate itching. Even better, one of these remedies may already reside in your medicine cabinet — although you might never guess it would be effective against mosquito bites since it's often used to combat congestion, cough, and toenail fungal infections (via Healthline). Need a hint? It's Vicks VapoRub.

These ingredients in Vicks VapoRub may help soothe itchy mosquito bites

Many of the ingredients in Vicks VapoRub that help ease frustrating cold symptoms are the same ones that may offer itch relief from mosquito bites. In a 2020 study published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers conducted focus groups with women in Colombia regarding their knowledge and personal opinions about methods of protection against the mosquito-borne Zika virus. When asked about bite prevention and itch-relief measures implemented in the household, Vicks VapoRub was frequently mentioned. "I use Vicks VapoRub. I apply [it] on my skin. As it contains menthol, mosquitoes don't approach," one participant noted. 

Because of menthol's cooling and numbing effects, it can also be an effective form of bug-bite relief, explained dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz to PopSugar. But menthol isn't the only ingredient in Vicks VapoRub that can soothe mosquito-bitten skin. Thymol and camphor appear to have this superpower as well. Camphor, in particular, may also be effective at warding off mosquitos in the first place. General practitioner Dr. Pauline Jose told Byrdie that camphor is derived from the Cinnamomum camphora tree, which is closely related to the species of tree from which cinnamon is derived. With a strong scent, camphor can aid in keeping mosquitos at arm's length.

Is Vicks VapoRub an effective insect repellent?

In addition to dabbing Vicks VapoRub directly onto an itchy bite, if you wish to try Vicks as an initial defense, add a touch to your arms, ankles, and any other easy-to-reach places for a mosquito. However, it's important to note that an EPA-registered insect repellent is your best bet when it comes to reducing your chances of mosquito bites. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus are among the various active ingredients that have proven effective for providing long-lasting protection against insect bites — none of which can be found in Vicks VapoRub (via Vicks). 

In addition to using a commercial insect repellent, individuals can also wear protective clothing to reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites. This includes long-sleeved shirts and pants, close-toed shoes, socks, and hats. For even more protection, consider tucking in your clothes, such as pulling your socks up over the bottoms of your pant legs.