Bug Bite Remedies
Nothing ruins a nice summer day more than biting bugs. Bites can itch, sting, and swell. The main culprits are mosquitos, ticks, and the occasional horsefly. For most people, bug bites are a temporary nuisance, though some bites can cause dangerous allergic reactions. Mosquitos can carry West Nile virus, encephalitis, and malaria. Deer ticks are known to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies to bug bites. If you’re working in the garden, hiking in the woods, or strolling through the neighborhood for your evening constitutional, be sure to apply an insect repellent with the active ingredient DEET. Wear light-colored, loose clothing, closed shoes, and a hat.
Ticks like to sit on the tips of grasses and shrubs. If you’re walking through fields of long grass, tuck your pants into your socks. You may look like a nerd but you won’t have blood-sucking ticks latching onto your legs.
Despite taking active precautions, life is inevitably full of bug bites. When they occur there are various remedies to ease the discomfort ranging from commercial unguents to homemade therapies. Let’s start with the most common bite. Female mosquitos need your blood to reproduce. When they drink it they inject an anticoagulant to prevent the blood from clotting while they’re sipping it. This produces a mild itch in some, and a more agonizing itchy swelling in those with sensitive skin. As hard as it might be, don’t scratch it. This will only make it worse.
Clean the mosquito bite ASAP with rubbing alcohol (vodka or tequila will work in a pinch, and relieve pain if taken orally). If you’re allergic to mosquito bites, and troubled by severe itching and swelling, apply an antihistamine cream or lotion with an analgesic and corticosteroid. This will relieve pain and itching.
Homemade mosquito bite remedies include treating the bite with a cotton ball soaked in vinegar or a solution of one tablespoon baking soda dissolved in a pint of water. Then there’s the salad approach: some treat bites with a slice of cucumber, some crushed basil, peppermint leaves, or honey. Good old calamine lotion works for some while others apply an ice pack or ice cubes. I’ve even heard of dissolving an aspirin on the bite—or smearing it with toothpaste. These remedies can also bring relief for flea bites, bed bug bites, and fly bites.
If a wood or deer tick has latched onto your flesh, don’t just yank off the blood-engorged critter. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close to the head (the part that’s stuck in your skin) as possible. Once removed apply an anti-biotic ointment such as bacitracin and cover the bite with a bandage.
Bug bites… well, they bite, but it’s all part of enjoying nature. I’d rather deal with mosquitoes and wood ticks than spend my summer days indoors. If reality bites there’s always a topical unguent to cure your ills.