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There’s nothing worse than a pesky bug bite. Yet once summer rolls around, bug bites are nearly impossible to avoid—especially for the mosquito magnets among us. If you fall into that camp, we have some good news: we finally tested the viral Bug Bite Thing, and it really works to provide quick relief from insect bites and stings.
If you haven’t heard of it, the Bug Bite Thing is a handheld contraption that claims to remove insect venom, saliva, and other irritants left under the skin using suction. It has been creating a buzz (pun intended) on the internet for a while now. First, when founding mother-daughter duo Kelley Higney and Ellen McAlister appeared on Shark Tank season 11.
More recently, it has gone viral on TikTok (to the tune of 20 million views), surprising users with how it provides almost instant relief within the short time constraints of a TikTok video. Thanks to all that hype, it’s now the #1 best-selling insect bite treatment on Amazon, has over 61,000 reviews to back it up, and best of all, costs less than $10.
Despite all the reviews, video evidence, and even personal success using the Bug Bite Thing, we were still perplexed by how the device works to relieve pain, itching, and inflammation with no cream, chemicals, or medicine. So we turned to Dr. Mona Amin M.D., a board-certified pediatrician, content creator, and the first member of Bug Bite Thing’s medical advisory board to learn the science behind the viral sensation.
How does the Bug Bite Thing work?
Simply put, Bug Bite Thing uses suction to lift venom and saliva out of the skin from the head of an insect bite. According to instructions on the packaging, the best way to use the Bug Bite Thing is to place the head of the tool over the bite or sting area. Then, pull the handles on the device up slightly until you start to feel suction. Hold it for 10-20 seconds, and continue slowly pulling up on the handles. You should feel increased suction but stop shy of feeling any pain. Then, push down on the handles to release the suction and repeat two to three times. If used correctly, you should notice reduced pain and irritation within a matter of minutes.
“By extracting the irritant, the body stops producing the histamine response,” says Dr. Amin. “Our bodies react to venom by developing a local reaction, which is the redness or swelling we usually see with bug bites. So when you remove the cause, which is the venom, you’ll minimize the body’s reaction to it.” She also adds that beyond physically removing the venom, suction helps with general inflammation around the bite. “If something is irritated or inflamed, the pressure of the suction can alleviate the inflammatory response and the itch, just like if you were to use a compress.”
Dr. Amin adds that you won’t visibly see the venom being extracted because the particles are so tiny, but you should wash the tool after every use to avoid cross-contaminating future bites.
What insect bites and stings does the Bug Bite Thing work on?
“Because the tool uses suction to suck out saliva and venom, it works for any biting insect,” says Dr. Amin. “It works great for mosquitos, bees, wasps, ants—really any insect that would bite you besides perhaps a serious spider bite from a black widow or brown recluse spider.”
As a Florida resident, she has personally used the tool most frequently to treat mosquito bites. She also adds that the tool can be used to extract bee stingers or splinters that are under the surface of the skin. “The handle of the tool is also a scraper so you can use it to lift up and scrape out a bee stinger. If you get a splinter, you can use the regular suction head of the tool to bring it close to the surface of the skin, then the scraper to get it out.”
Is the Bug Bite Thing Safe for children?
Yes! “The tool is actually great for kids because it alleviates the itch factor,” says Dr. Amin. “Kids scratch so much and their fingernails are often dirty, so they tend to get infected more,” so with less scratching, your child’s bug bites are less likely to snowball into a more serious infection. “You can’t use certain ointments or common treatments on children, but this can be used [at] any age,” she continues. “If you’re using it on a child, you should use less suction and hold it for a shorter amount of time, but it’s safe even for babies around 9 months old and above who are first becoming aware of bites and itching sensations and starting to scratch.”
Dr. Amin’s tips for using the Bug Bite Thing
Use the Bug Bite Thing as soon as you notice a bite. The closer to the time of the bite or sting, the more effective it will be.
Keep multiple Bug Bite Things handy so you can reach for one whenever you’re bit. Dr. Amin keeps one in her garage, car, and purse, so she can treat bites right away whether she and her son are playing in the yard or out on the go.
Get the most out of your Bug Bite Thing by using the handles of the tool as a scraper to remove bee stingers or splinters.
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