Well, it’s official. Sitting in the pre-tornado humidity of our Spring evening in Austin, it happened…my first mosquito bite of the season. Fighting back the urge to cry, “I’m not ready!”, I am reminding myself that this Friday for Recipe Weekend we’ll be posting a recipe — and mixing up a batch! of natural homemade bug repellent that will hopefully make this first bite my last.
But I know that this first bite heralds the start to an entire post-Winter season – of camping trips, picnics, pool parties, trips to the park, summer vacations — and general outdoor merriment that comes with the lurking dangers of everything from yellow-jacket-riddled trashcans to noseeums and sand fleas.
So as we welcome the return of long sun-lit days, and these unwelcome accompanying hazards, I want to refresh everyone’s memory on the best easy remedies to stop the gnawing itch of bug bites and the pain of stings. If forewarned is really forearmed (as my mother likes to say), impending Spring and Summer fun just got a little bit safer.
For MOSQUITO and other BUG BITES, have you tried:
- A drop of tea tree oil dabbed gently on the site of a bite or applied to a band-aid which then covers the bite area can provide both soothing relief, and ward off infection. Add a drop of lavender essential oil for increased pain and itch relief.
- A cotton ball soaked in witch hazel can provide immediate pain relief, and stop the swelling of a bug bite.
- Ice cubes!!! Ice cubes are a great, easily-accessible and free line of defense against itch and swelling.
- Calendula — Both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, calendula oil or cream is one of the most effective remedies in the bug bite repertoire. Just rub it on the site. And p.s. it’s also great for cuts, wounds and rashes.
- Aloe vera gel — its not just for burns, it’s a great itch, irritation and wound healer.
For Ant Bites:
- Start by washing with soap and water.
- Apply apple cider vinegar directly to the bites.
- Finish with healing salve, baking soda mixed with a dab of water or green clay
For BEES, WASPS and other nasty STINGS:
- Scrape out the stinger with a fingernail or credit card (avoid pulling it out with tweezers, which can release more venom into the site of the sting).
- Wash the area with soap and water
- Apply an antiseptic, such as witch hazel or apple cider vinegar.
- Mix baking soda with water until it forms a paste and apply to the area. The baking soda will tenderize the skin, relieve pain, and stop inflammation. You can also try meat tenderizer mixed with water. The bee sting venom is made up of proteins, which the meat tenderizer breaks down.
- For stings, place a slice of papaya over the site for up to an hour. The papain enzyme in papaya is excellent at breaking down the venomous proteins causing inflammation and pain.
- One drop of lavender essential oil at the site of the bee sting can have a potent pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effect. For wasp stings, try 1-3 drops of lavender essential oil, and 1-3 drops of tea tree oil for extra anti-inflammatory effects and pain relief.
- Basil: basil has been shown to be an insect repellent, a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory for bee stings, and a great reliever of spider bites. For spider bites, 2-3 drops of basil oil on a band-aid works best. For bee stings, you can crush fresh basil and place it directly on the site of the sting after cleaning. Then plan on eating Italian food for dinner. (I dare you not to crave pesto after using this remedy.)
- Keep plantain leaves on hand. If a bee strikes, after removing the stinger, chew up the leaf, or bruise it with your hand and then apply it directly to the site of the sting. It helps draw out the venom and ease the pain.
For Bites All Over:
- Is your child covered in bites, or stand in an anthill? (I did, once, and the fire ants were merciless…) Put them in a bath of apple cider vinegar or baking soda — about 1/2 C for each 6 inches of water.
- Support your child internally by giving him Vitamin C, digestive enzymes with protease, and plantain or echinacea tincture to stop the swelling.
Fact or Fiction: A few years ago, I was stung by a Texas scorpion. Coming from California, where apparently the scorpions are of a more dangerous variety, I called a medical hotline immediately. The nurse on call, after ascertaining that I was not suffering any severe allergic reaction, suggested that I place a penny on the site of the sting. While in my case I can’t be sure that it was the penny, the ice packs, or just time that cured my pain, I have since heard stories both refuting and supporting the “penny cure.” Just remember to clean the penny first.
When to seek medical help with a bug bite or sting:
The area of the sting or bite swells up, such as the entire wrist arm or leg where it occurred; there is any difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, or other signs of severe allergy; the pain and inflammation does not subside, even after hours of treatment. Bee stings can cause especially severe reactions. When in doubt, have it checked out.