As the summer is here, there will be lots of bugs and insects buzzing around – and biting you and your family members. Whether it is mosquito bites, ant bites, chigger bites, spider bites or bee stings, it can cause a lot of discomfort.
Insect bites come in various shapes and sizes, but they all commonly cause an itchy, red reaction on your skin.
When a mosquito or other insect pricks your skin, it leaves behind saliva or a bit of venom that the immune system identifies as an invader. In response, the immune system releases histamines (a type of protein) to signal that there’s something wrong, and ultimately it leads to an allergic reaction that causes itching.
Due to insect bites, there may be redness, swelling, tenderness and heat along with intense itching. But no matter what, do not scratch the bitten area. It can create openings in your skin, giving way to bacteria and possibly an infection.
If you don’t want to run to the clinic and are looking for a natural solution to deal with insect bites, you will be happy to know that there are several remedies that can provide fast relief.
Caution: See a doctor immediately if the skin turns pale, hives appear and there is difficulty breathing.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for insect bites.
1. Cold Compress
Insect bites can cause itching as well as pain. To stop the itching immediately, try a cold compress.
The cold temperature helps reduce the itching sensation by numbing the skin, which can give you immediate but short-term relief. It can even control the muscle pain and spasms associated with severe insect bites or stings.
- Wrap a handful of ice cubes in a soft cotton towel.
- Place the ice pack on the insect bite for no longer than 10 minutes at a time.
- Repeat the process as many times as needed until the pain and itching subside.
Caution: Don’t apply ice directly on your bite, as it can damage the skin.
If you have intense itching due to insect bites, oatmeal is a good remedy.
Oatmeal contains anti-irritating, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties that provide instant relief from itching.
A 2008 study published in the Archives of Dermatological Research demonstrates that avenanthramides are potent anti-inflammatory agents that appear to mediate the anti-irritant effects of oats .
- For localized itching, make an oatmeal paste by mixing equal amounts of oatmeal and water in a bowl. Transfer the paste onto a washcloth and hold it, paste-side down, on the irritated skin for about 10 minutes. Rinse the area clean with cool water. Repeat as needed.
- If the itching is severe, try an oatmeal bath. Sprinkle 1 cup of oatmeal or ground oats into a bathtub full of warm water. Soak in the oatmeal bath for 20 minutes, occasionally rubbing some of the clumped oatmeal onto irritated areas of your skin. Repeat once or twice a day.
3. Aloe Vera
A common household plant, aloe vera can be of great help to deal with different types of insect bites.
The gel has anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve some of the pain and itching associated with bites. It can also help prevent infections from insect bites.
Plus, it helps restore the skin to its normal condition because of its natural antiseptic qualities.
- Scrape off the gel from an aloe vera leaf and apply it on the bite area. Allow it to dry on its own, then rinse your skin. Reapply several times a day.
- Alternatively, mix equal amounts of organic turmeric and aloe vera gel to make a paste. Apply the paste on the affected area. Wait 30 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
4. Baking Soda
Baking soda is another effective remedy to reduce rashes as well as itchiness due to any kind of insect bite. It acts as a natural acid neutralizer and helps soothe the redness, itching and stinging that signal a mild reaction to an insect bite.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and a little water to make a paste. Apply the paste on the affected area. Repeat twice daily for 2 to 3 days.
- Alternatively, add 1 cup of baking soda to a bathtub filled with cool water. Stir well and then soak in this water for 15 minutes. Pat yourself dry with a soft towel. Do this once daily.
Caution: Never use baking soda on broken skin or open wounds.
5. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is a natural astringent and can help deal with the symptoms of insect bites. It contains tannins, which act as astringents when applied to the skin.
Its anti-inflammatory nature reduces the burning sensation as well as pain and itching. It can also speed up the healing process.
- Soak a cotton ball in witch hazel. Place it on the affected area. Remove the cotton ball after 10 minutes. Repeat as needed.
- Alternatively, mix a few drops of witch hazel in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Apply it on the affected skin. Leave it on for 15 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water. Repeat as needed.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
If you are big fan of apple cider vinegar, you will be happy to know that it can be a great home remedy for insect bites, too.
The acidic nature of apple cider vinegar can help reduce stinging and burning sensations. It can also act as a natural disinfectant and help reduce the risk of infection.
Plus, it causes a bit of a sting, which helps distract you from the constant itching and prevents you from scratching.
- Mix 2 to 3 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in an equal quantity of water. Soak a cotton ball in this solution and apply it on the insect bite. Leave the cotton on the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it off. Repeat the process twice daily for 2 to 3 days.
- Alternatively, add 2 cups of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bathwater. Soak in this water for 15 minutes. After pat drying your skin, apply a light moisturizer to prevent dryness. Do this once or twice a day.
Honey is another good remedy that you can try at home.
It is known for its antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe inflammation, pain and itching. It also speeds up the recovery process.
- Wash the insect bite, then apply some honey on it. Let it sit for a couple of hours. Wash it off with warm water. Repeat twice daily for 2 to 3 days.
- Alternatively, mix equal amounts of honey and turmeric powder into a paste. Apply it in the bite area and allow it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse the area with cool water. Repeat once or twice a day.
8. Indian Lilac
Indian lilac, also known as neem, can also help get rid of the discomforts associated with insect bites. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant agent that helps reduce itching and inflammation.
Being a natural antiseptic, it also reduces the risk of an infection.
- Simmer a handful of neem leaves in 2 to 3 cups of water for 15 minutes. Strain the solution and allow it to cool. Use this water to wash the affected area, a couple of times daily for a few days.
- You can also apply a neem-based cream or lotion on the affected area, a few times daily for a few days.
Chamomile is another useful remedy for insect bites. Its anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties soothe the skin, relieve itching, reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- Make 2 cups of chamomile tea and allow it to cool in the refrigerator. Soak a washcloth in the cool tea. Place the washcloth on the affected area for 10 minutes. Do this a couple of times a day for a few days.
- Alternatively, add 4 or 5 drops of chamomile essential oil to 1 teaspoon of coconut or olive oil. Apply it on the affected area a few times daily, until you get relief from itching and rashes.
To quickly control inflammation and pain from an insect bite, try aspirin. It can neutralize the bite area to promote quick recovery. In addition, its strong anti-inflammatory properties can effectively control swelling and inflammation.
- Soak 1 to 2 aspirin tablets in a little water to form a paste. Apply this paste on the affected area. Leave it on for a 20 to 30 minutes. Wash it off with lukewarm water. Repeat 1 or 2 more times, if needed.
- For minor bites, wet the affected skin and rub an aspirin over the bite.
- You can apply heat on the affected area using a warm washcloth, a hot coffee mug, running warm tap water or taking a hot shower or bath.
- Clean the bite area with warm salty water.
- You can also clean the area with Listerine, which has menthol in it that helps cool the irritated skin around the bite.
- Resist the urge to scratch the bites, as it may lead to a skin infection.
- Applying a mixture of equal parts of cold milk and water can also help relieve itching.
- You can also use calamine lotion or anti-itch creams to deal with the itching.
- Keep the area around your house free of weeds and overgrowth of plants to prevent attracting insects.
- Do not disturb bee hives or wasp nests. Find a professional to help get rid of them.
- Use mosquito screens for all the windows and doors to keep away the mosquitoes.
- Do not use chemical-based repellents.
- Avenanthramides, polyphenols from oats, exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-itch activity. Archives of Dermatological Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18461339. Published November 2008.