Bug bites are a fact of life. Particularly during the summer months, you can’t really step outside without encountering mosquitos, bees or other pests. While you might not be able to avoid a bite or sting while spending time in the great outdoors, the good news is that there are steps you can take to ease the unpleasant sensations that follow. A number of home remedies for bug bites exist to reduce symptoms and boost your quality of life.
Although some bug bites require medical attention, most are mere annoyances. Along with looking unsightly, these bites interfere with your ability to work or have fun with friends during the summer months. From salves to soaks, here are some of the most effective DIY remedies for bug bites.
Just about everyone has suffered a bug bite at one time or another. However, few people understand exactly why bug bites cause such discomfort. The pain, itching and stinging that follow a bite are actually due to the immune system’s efforts to protect us. Because many bugs leave venom behind when they bite, the body releases histamines, which signal the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to show up and fight the infection (1). As the cells multiply and expand, they irritate the surrounding nerves, resulting in that unpleasant itch.
Despite being part of your body’s natural response, itching is still an annoyance. While it’s important to avoid scratching — doing this may allow bacteria to penetrate the skin, worsening the infection — you don’t have to suffer the unpleasantness of bug bites in silence. A number of home remedies for bug bites exist to help mitigate your symptoms until your body heals.
Whether you spent the day picnicking in the park or lounging by the pool, you might find yourself riddled with bug bites upon your return home. While most insect bites aren’t cause for concern, some do require medical attention. If you’ve suffered a bite or sting, the first step is to determine what type of insect is responsible.
Wondering if those bites on your leg are from bed bugs(2)? Typically, these troublesome pests leave small, red, itchy bite marks on the skin. In rare cases, individuals may experience more severe bed bug allergic reactions resulting in intense itching and discomfort.
People usually know if they’ve been stung by a bee as most stings result in a sharp burning pain that lasts for a couple of seconds. Expect to see a small, reddish bump with a white surrounding circle if you’ve suffered a bee sting.
The bane of pet owners, flea bites tend to show up on the ankles and lower legs. Resulting in an itchy red welt, a flea bite turns white when you press on it with the tip of your finger. Additionally, flea bite sufferers may experience pain or soreness.
One of the most common summertime pests, mosquitoes cause itchy red or pink bumps. While you probably won’t feel a mosquito bite you, the itching occurs soon after being bit. In rare cases, mosquito bite victims can experience more severe symptoms like hives, blisters or even anaphylaxis(3).
The symptoms of a spider bite vary dramatically based on the type of spider involved. However, most bites result in only mild symptoms, such as pain, redness or swelling. If you think you’ve been bitten by a spider and are suffering from more serious symptoms, like chills, sweating or nausea, don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical attention(4).
Bites from dog ticks tend to result in few negative symptoms. However, deer ticks can carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, an illness with serious side effects. If you notice a painless red rash that looks like a bullseye on your skin, it’s important to see a doctor immediately (5).
Insect bites can put a damper on all your summer celebrations. However, there are ways of easing the pain, itching and stinging from the comfort of your own home. Here are some of the most effective home remedies for bug bites:
Histamines play an important role in the immune system, but they can also cause discomfort. Fortunately, you can alleviate itchy skin by applying heat to your bite. Consider taking a hot shower or bath or pressing a warm compress against your skin. While heat only offers temporary relief, you can likely enjoy a few minutes of being itch-free with this method.
Want a longer-lasting solution to your itchy skin? Opt for cold therapy(6). Along with numbing the bite, ice packs and cold compresses reduce the surface temperature of the skin and slow the production of histamines. Do not apply the ice for more than five minutes, as doing so can damage the skin.
Heat and ice work well for a couple bites. However, if your skin is covered in itchy red marks, you might want to step up your efforts. Soaking in a baking soda bath works by neutralizing pH levels at the site of the infection.If you don't have time for a long soak in a bathtub, you can create a paste by mixing one tablespoon of baking soda with a small amount of water. Wash off your makeshift mask after 10 minutes.
If you had chickenpox as a child, then you probably remember your mother or father putting you in a soothing oatmeal bath to mitigate the itch. However, you might not know that oatmeal is also one of the more effective home remedies for bug bites. Along with reducing irritation and itching, an oatmeal bath or mask has moisturizing effects. To create your own oatmeal bath, just add one or two cups of steel-cut oats to a tub of warm water. Settle in with a good book and soak for 30 minutes.
Mud baths have long been a fixture at high-end spas. Still, if you’re suffering from insect bites, you can also use this free natural remedy to ease the itch. All you have to do is go out to your backyard and dig up some soil. Mix it with water and then apply the resulting mud to your bug bite in a thin layer. Mud masks are especially effective if you suffer insect bites while camping or backpacking and don’t have access to other treatment options.
In addition to sweetening tea and soothing throats, honey is also a proven remedy for bug bites. According to dermatologists, honey is an anti-inflammatory that can ease the itch of bites so you’re less likely to scratch(7).
Most bug bites aren’t cause for concern. However, some people suffer allergic reactions and other negative symptoms after a bug bite. If you experience one or more of the following, it could be an indicator that you need medical attention for your bite:
Additionally, experiencing flu-like symptoms in the wake of a bite could indicate that you contracted an infection or illness. Don’t wait to see a doctor to evaluate your symptoms and decide if you need medical treatment.
No one enjoys feeling itchy or irritated. However, despite your best efforts, you probably can’t avoid insect bites for the rest of your life. The good news is there are steps you can take to reduce your odds of being bitten or stung.
One of the best ways to avoid bug bites is to stay covered up. The fact is that bug bites are more common during the summer months, when high temps lead many of us to don shorts and t-shirts. To minimize your chances of being bitten, try to wear long pants, sleeves and hats when you go outside. Additionally, you should avoid bright colors, scented lotions and perfumes, all of which are known to attract insect attention.
Additionally, products exist to prevent bug bites before they occur. Citronella candles work by repelling mosquitoes and other flying insects. You can also apply a bug spray to exposed skin prior to spending time outside.
Don’t let insect bites show up to ruin your summer. Along with taking steps to minimize your risk of being bitten, it pays to invest in products like hats, insect spray and citronella candles. Additionally, you can pick up some supplies to make home remedies for insect bites. The most effective treatments for insect bites include hot compresses, ice packs, oatmeal baths and mud salves.
While most bug bites and stings are harmless, some can cause illnesses, allergic reactions or even diseases. If you’re suffering from serious symptoms like fever, confusion or trouble breathing after a bug bite, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.April Maguire - Contributing Writer, Physician’s Choice