The Next Time You Get A Bug Bite, Try Treating It The Natural Way

Summer is arguably the best time of year—you know, other than the bug bites.

Something that makes them even more annoying? Those bug and mosquito bites are little allergic reactions brought on by insects. Think about it: Their symptoms (pain, itching, swelling) are all characteristic of a localized allergic reaction, says David Cutler, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

(Keep in mind, however, that if a bug bite turns into an itchy rash all over your body, that’s a sign of a more generalized response by your immune system, which could require medical attention, says Dr. Cutler.)

But as far as those mild, localized, itchy bites go, hold off on a trip to the drugstore to find your anti-itch remedy—experts say these 12 natural ways to relieve bug bites can be just as effective as any over-the-counter treatments.

1. Tea tree oil

This natural oil is capable of alleviating itching, pain, and swelling, according to dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD. Tea tree oil is also antibacterial, which can help prevent infection of the bug bite (which can happen if you scratch it so much, that you create an open wound!).

2. Honey

If you don’t mind a bit of stickiness, honey is an anti-inflammatory and can make the itching a little less tempting, says board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD.

4. Milk and water

This is Dr. Schultz’s favorite technique. Mix equal parts skim milk and water, dip a thin cloth (like a handkerchief or an old T-shirt) into the concoction, and dab your skin. You’ll find the protein from the milk super-soothing on the itchy bite location.

5. Lemon or lime juice

These fruit powerhouses provide itch relief and are antibacterial, says Dr. Schultz. But if you go this route, make sure you’re inside—these juices can burn your skin if you’re out in the sun, he says.

3. Lavender oil

Dr. Schultz says dabbing a few drops of lavender oil to the itchy or painful bite can help dull the sensation—and help you resist touching and picking at it.

But, keep in mind: Oils from different brands may be more acidic than others, so make sure to dilute it with a drop or two of water first, says Dr. Schultz, which can help prevent any irritation from the oil.

7. Toothpaste

“Most toothpastes have a mint or peppermint flavor, and the menthol ingredient creates a cooling sensation on your skin,” says Dr. Schultz. Your brain picks up on this feeling much quicker than the itching sensation. Plus, the astringent nature of toothpaste helps reduce swelling.

8. Basil

This spice isn’t just limited to the kitchen. Basil leaves contain chemicals such as camphor, which creates a cool feeling, similar to menthol in toothpaste, says Dr. Schultz. Crush a few leaves and apply the bits directly to your bumps.

9. Apple cider vinegar

This is a great home remedy to block itching because of its low acidic levels, says Dr. Schultz. Dab it onto individual spots or, if your body’s been a buffet for bugs, you can add two-to-three cups to warm water and soak in a tub. And apple cider vinegar may work even better, says Dr. Schultz.

6. Coconut oil

Coconut oil’s benefits when it comes to bug bites are three-fold, says Dr. Schultz. Not only can the coconut oil soothe the itchy, red skin, but it can also protect the bite from any dust and dirt that might irritate it.

Coconut oil, like lavender, is also antibacterial, says Dr. Schultz, so it can help heal the bite as it protects and soothes it.

10. Ice or ice pack

A single ice cube can constrict the blood vessels and decrease the body’s natural histamine release, says Dr. Bowe. Translation: less itching. FYI: An ice pack will totally work here too.

11. Tea bags

Yep, cool tea bags draw fluid out of a bite to reduce itching and swelling, says Dr. Schultz. To do this, brew up a cup of tea, and when you’re done using the tea bag, let it cool for a few minutes then apply the bag to the bug bite. Will you look a little weird? Maybe—but it definitely beats itching and scratching.

12. Cortisone

Okay, yes, this one is technically a drug-store purchase, however, “cortisone is a chemical that the body makes and has natural anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. Cutler explains, making it a natural remedy. “Most people find that using small amounts of cortisone is effective” since it suppresses the body’s allergic response to help stop itching and swelling. Calamine lotion is a similar over-the-counter option that can be used to reduce itching and swelling from bug bites as well.

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