Bug bites are an inevitable part of summer. And let’s face it, for many of us, our arms, legs, neck and ankles are a veritable smorgasbord for those biting pests. Bumps and itchiness that accompany bites develop from an anticoagulant that the bug injects to prevent your blood from clotting. What follows is a mild allergic reaction and typical round, red bumps. Fortunately, there are many remedies to soothe those bites, and they don’t involve applying toxic chemicals to your skin.
Although aloe is about 99 percent water, the remaining one percent contains over 100 active compounds and amino acids, beneficial to your skin. Aloe speeds wound healing by improving blood circulation, preventing cell death, according to a pharmacognosy study published in the National Library of Medicine (NCBI) .
To harvest aloe from the plant, make sure the aloe plant is mature, at least eight inches in length, and the leaves are fleshy and green. Use the outside leaves, since they are the oldest and contain the thick nutrient-rich gel. Once cut, the wound will seal and new growth will sprout from the center. Carefully split open the leaf to extract the gel and rub it on your bug bite.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Using vinegar to fight infections and other acute conditions dates back to 460-377 BC, when Hippocrates the father of modern medicine, recommended vinegar for cleaning ulcerations and treating sores, suggests research from the Department of Nutrition, Arizona State University. Apple cider vinegar is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, making it ideal for soothing and disinfecting bug bites.
Add a little vinegar to a cotton ball and gently dab the bite. For all-over body bites, add two-thirds cup to a warm bath and soak for at least 10 minutes.
Baking Soda and Witch Hazel
Baking soda, a natural disinfectant, reduces inflammation. Witch hazel, a natural astringent, draws out excess fluid. Combining the two ingredients provides quick itch relief while reducing swelling.
Peel a banana and rub the soft interior of the peel over your bug bite. The fruit acids, vitamins and minerals in the peel help to soothe away pain and itching.
Basil, a culinary and medicinal herb, is ideal for bug bites thanks to chemical compounds like eugenol that relieves itchy skin. To make a basil rub:
- Boil two cups of water and remove from heat.
- Add 1/2 ounce of dried basil leaves.
- Allow the mixture to steep until it is cool.
Dip a washcloth into it the steeped basil water and rub it gently on your bites. Alternately, chop a few fresh basil leaves until very fine and rub them on to your bite.
Raw honey is another ancient remedy. The healing property of honey is due to its antibacterial activity and because it helps maintains a moist wound condition, suggests research conducted by the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, KPC Medical College and Hospital, India. Additionally, its high viscosity helps provide a protective barrier on the bite, preventing infection. Dab a small amount of raw honey onto your bite to reduce swelling and help it heal faster.
Lemon or Lime Juice
Citrus juice not only stops the itch, but also supplies quick antimicrobial relief, preventing infection. Dab lemon or lime juice over fresh bites with a cotton ball. Let it dry, then rinse well. The natural antioxidants and alpha-hydroxy acids found in citrus juice work to naturally cleanse the bug bite.
Proteins naturally present in milk are both anti-inflammatory and anti-itch. Soak a cotton ball in milk and dab your bug bite. Use skim milk for best results, but if you only have high-fat milk on hand, that will do.
The cooling oils naturally present in peppermint help stop pain and itching. Apply crushed, fresh peppermint leaves over bug bites or lightly dab the bite with a drop of peppermint essential oil for fast relief.
Tea bags draw fluid from bug bites, reducing itching and swelling. Gently rub a cool, moist tea bag over the bite, the natural tannins in the leaves will draw out excess fluid to reduce pain and swelling.
Tea Tree Oil
Used for centuries by the aboriginal people of Australia, tea tree oil is used topically to heal a wide array of skin infections. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, suggests tea tree oil may be used for wounds, fungal infections and skin lesions.
Virgin Coconut Oil
You probably never thought of using coconut oil on insect bites, but it actually works wonders to stop the itch and pain. A study conducted by the Department of Biochemistry, University of Kerala, India, applied virgin coconut oil to the wounds of young rats. They found that the wounds healed much faster and collagen levels increased.
Coconut oil kills harmful microbes and bacteria from affected areas, healing the wound faster and without infection. Additionally, coconut oil rejuvenates skin cells, helps in shedding of dead skin cells and provides necessary moisture to the skin, which results in less scarring.
Create Your Own Bug Bite Balm
Make your own kid-safe bug bite balm for camping trips or backyard barbecues. A few simple ingredients melted together and you have instant relief. To make your bug balm:
- 1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp grated beeswax, packed
- 2 tsp cocoa butter
- 1 tsp tea tree essential oil
- 1 tsp lavender essential oil
Gently melt beeswax and cocoa butter in a double boiler. Once the mixture is melted, stir in essential oils. Transfer the mixture to a pourable container and pour into individual lip balm tubes or jars. Allow to cool before using.