Insect bites and stings can take the fun out of any outdoor adventure, and even the best bug bite prevention tips sometimes aren’t enough to keep insects from trying to make their mark on you. Spiders, wasps, bees, and mosquitoes can cause significant discomfort and even pain. While some people can shrug off bites and stings, others are sensitive to insect venom.
If you’re looking for natural treatment for insect bites and stings, there are a range of options available, and some are probably already in your kitchen or medicine cabinet. Some treatments rely on basic chemical principles like pH balance, while others simply reduce swelling to help manage discomfort. Many of these are even cheaper and easier to use than over-the-counter pharmaceutical remedies like ibuprofen and antihistamines.
1. Witch Hazel
With its powerful anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, witch hazel is one of the most well-known natural treatments for everything from bee stings to bed bug bites. It’s really easy to use, too: dab some on your bite or sting and reapply as needed. While witch hazel is considered safe for children, check with a doctor before using if you’re pregnant.
2. Ice Packs
While ice packs may seem simplistic, they’re very effective for mild bee stings and bug bites. Applying an ice pack for the first 15-20 minutes can reduce swelling and discomfort. Place a cloth between the ice pack and your skin to prevent frostbite.
3. Tea Bags
Tea contains tannins that can treat insect bites and stings naturally and quickly. Run a tea bag under hot water, cool it off, and use it as a poultice on mosquito bites and bee stings. White tea and chamomile tea can be particularly soothing for mosquito bites, but in a pinch, black tea will also provide some relief.
Fresh aloe works wonders for irritation, so if you’re not sure what stung or bit you, aloe is a great option. Apply and reapply as needed – there’s no risk of drying out your skin from overuse. If you don’t have an aloe plant in your house, store-bought aloe vera products work fine, but consider buying a small aloe plant on your next run to a garden or home improvement store. Aloe is also great for treating sunburns, so you’ll get plenty of use out of an aloe plant over the course of spring and summer.
5. Baking Soda and Water
A thick paste made of baking soda and water can reduce swelling and itching in mosquito and other insect bites. Since baking soda is alkaline, it’s excellent for treating irritation and reducing itching. To use, apply the paste and cover it with a bandage for at least 15 minutes. Reapply as needed, but make sure to thoroughly wash away the paste once the irritation has faded.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Believe it or not, mild vinegar can also be effective in reducing irritation caused by wasp stings and other alkaline insect venoms. Make sure only to use a little bit, though – too much can dry out your skin. Since apple cider vinegar has a wide range of uses for cooking and skincare, consider keeping a bottle in your kitchen cabinet.
7. Tea Tree Oil
Out of all the essential oils on the market, tea tree oil is probably the best for reducing irritation caused by insect stings. It’s inexpensive, safe for use during pregnancy, and smells pleasant and fresh. It’s particularly effective against mosquito bites. Apply a small dab to the affected area and occasionally reapply as needed.
8. Lemon Balm Oil
Lemon balm is related to mint and makes a potent essential oil that can also be effective for treating insect stings. You can also directly apply chopped leaves to a mosquito bite.
Despite their tear-jerking aroma, freshly-cut onions are a classic home remedy for mosquito bites and insect stings. The juice from the onion stings at first, but that quickly fades along with the original pain and irritation from the bite.
Garlic isn’t just good for warding off vampires. Its anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties make it a valuable treatment for bee stings. The scent of garlic can also repel mosquitoes, but many humans also find the smell to be a little unpleasant, so use with caution!
11. Plantain Leaves
Like tea, plantain leaves contain tannin, which gently contracts skin and helps soothe a wide range of insect bites and stings. Unfortunately, plantain leaves are a little hard to come by in some parts of the world, but they’re a great quick fix for bites and stings on international vacations.
Remember not all-natural treatments for insect bites will work for all types of bites and stings. Results may even vary among individual patients. Not surprisingly, natural homeopathic remedies are often your best option for dealing with the less-pleasant parts of the natural world, whether they’re caused by an unfriendly insect or simple seasonal allergies.