Mosquitoes have loved to feast on my blood for as long as I can remember. (I must have a very appealing “chemical signature.”) Their meals almost always leave behind throbbing, painful welts, which would often turn into unsightly scars no matter what ointments, creams, or sprays I used to prevent or treat mosquito bites. For this reason, I sort of gave up on trying to prevent or treat them, because I assumed nothing would really make a difference and preferred to avoid the unpleasant, sticky residue left behind by lots of bug sprays and lotions and wipes.
Resigning to a life of being itchy (and miserable) meant that sometimes I’d avoid going outside altogether, which is hard enough during normal summers but nearly impossible at a time when health professionals encourage most of our lives to happen outdoors to limit the spread of COVID-19. So when a company reached out to me (and a couple of my colleagues) about a $10 piece of plastic that it calls “a must-have for anyone who is a ‘mosquito magnet,’” I was intrigued. Named the Bug Bite Thing, the tool (which was featured on Shark Tank) acts as a suction device to extract saliva or venom — the irritants that cause itching, stinging, and swelling — left beneath the skin’s surface by mosquitoes, bees, wasps, and other bugs.
Given my track record with bite-beating products, I was skeptical: How could this three-inch doodad that looks like any old syringe instantly treat mosquito bites without using any chemicals or medicine? The only way to find out was to test it, and with my front and backyards teeming with mosquitoes, it wasn’t long before I had the chance. Within minutes of taking my toddler out for a recent walk, I got at least three bites, and immediately went back inside to try the Bug Bite Thing (its makers say it is most effective when used right away). I placed the Thing on one of the bites, pulled up on its handles until I felt suction, and held it for the recommended 10–20 seconds before pushing down to release the suction. I repeated this procedure on the other two bites, and by the time I was done with all of them, the first bite honestly felt better. I could still see it, but it wasn’t itchy or irritated. The same thing happened with the other two. I was astounded.
While this may sound too much like a coincidence, I promise it’s true. The next day, at the park, a bee stung my hand. I’d brought Bug Bite Thing with me because I knew there’d be a good chance I’d be bitten by something while we were out. I felt the sting — which was actually more painful than I remembered (I was a kid the last time I got stung) — and then saw the stinger lodged in my skin. After removing it with my finger, I grabbed the Bug Bite Thing and used it the same way I had on my mosquito bites. The sting site instantly felt better, and I couldn’t even see it anymore.
I will say that the Thing can leave a faint hickey-like mark if I use too much suction, but since you’re in control of how much pressure you apply, you can learn how to avoid this with enough practice. Because it’s entirely user-controlled, I can also put it on my son’s sensitive skin (unfortunately, Augie seems to have inherited whatever I have that makes mosquitoes go mad). It comes with parts that allow you to increase or decrease the size of the opening you put over a bite so you’re not applying it to more skin than you need to, and even has a built-in “stinger scraper” on the handle (so you don’t have to use your finger). And you can take it apart for easy cleaning. While it’s not perfect, I think it’s fair to say that the Thing is incredible.
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