Prevent and soothe the pain and itching of insect bites and stings with these natural solutions.
Bugs be gone
When you head outdoors this summer, you may have some unwelcome company: creepy, crawling arthropods and flying insects ready to bite or sting you if you cross their paths. “Insects are cold-blooded and so more active in warm temperatures”. But whether you’re a bug magnet or an occasional victim, you risk more than itching, swelling or pain; many insects carry debilitating diseases. So if you’re in an area where there’s a real danger of contracting, say, malaria or dengue fever, using the chemical repellent DEET would be wise. Severe allergic reactions can also be an issue for some and warrant carrying an emergency epinephrine kit. Under less dangerous conditions, the natural bug-specific prevention and treatment options that follow can help take the sting (and bite) out of this season.
Mosquitoes are drawer to water, dark colors, sweat and blood. Try not to have standing water (including a pet’s water bowl) around; that’s where female mosquitoes lay their eggs. Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are more abundant. When you do go outside, wear long sleeves and loose-fitting paints in light colors. For extra protection, frequent applications of repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus can be as effective as using those with low concentrations of DEET, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommends products containing geraniol – a natural essential oil derived from geraniums – and neem oil from the Indian tree Azadirachta indica, which one study found offered significant protection for up to 12 hours. To treat bites naturally, suggests tea tree oil.
Try: Fending off mosquitoes with geraniol-based Bug band Spray Lotion or TheraNeem Organix Herbal Outdoor Spray, which contains neem, lemon and eucalyptus oils. If you get bitten, apply Dessert Essence 100% Australian Tea Tree Oil.
Like Mosquitoes, ticks are attracted to warm blood and the carbon dioxide that signals its presence. Wear long sleeves and long pants in light colors so you can easily spot ticks. Tuck your shirt into your pants into your socks, and wear boosts rather than sandals. “As soon as you come indoors,” take a shower and do a thorough tick-check”. If you get bitten, remove the tick completely with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers (get as close to your skin as possible and pull the bug back slowly), clean the are with soap and water and apply an antiseptic. Visit your doctor if you see a bull’s-eye of redness radiating out from the bug bite, which could be a sign of Lyme diseases. Other symptoms of Lyme disease – and Rocky Mountain spotted fever which also merits medical attention – include fever, headache and muscle or joint pain. Many of the same ingredients that repel mosquitoes and treat their bites also work for ticks.
Try: Another geraniol-based repellent, Buzz Away Extreme, which was found to be just as effective as DEET-containing OFF! Active IV. For bites, use tweezers or a special tick-removing devices like the Pro-Tick Remedy Tick Remover, then apply tea tree oil.
Bees and wasps
Bees like bright colors and sweet scents, so skip the Pucci swimwear and perfume, and leave sugary treats and beverages indoors. Never disturb a beehive or a swarm of bees – they’re most likely to strike when they feel threatened. If you get stung, gently scrape a credit card or other straight-edged object across the stinger to remove it. (Don’t pull out the stinger with your fingers or tweezers, which may release more venom.) After washing the area with soap and water to prevent infection, apply ice for about 10 minutes – and see a doctor right away of you have difficulty breathing or are stung several times. “You can go into respiratory distress from a sting and die if you’re allergic and don’t receive medical attention”.
Try: Natural sting-soothers like a paste made from 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water, or the Therapik, a small device that delivers heat to the site of a bug bite or sting and was confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration to relieve itching and burning.
Fire ants don’t bite, they sting. In fact, their stings are similar to bee stings and can trigger serious allergic reactions in some people. “Fire ants attack in a very organized and aggressive manner when their nests are distributed”. So steer clear of little dirt mounds, where they-like to make their nests. If you do wind up stepping into the territory of fire ants, a small army is likely to respond. “It’s not uncommon to see people come into the emergency room with 60 to 100 stings”. The sting can produce an intense searing sensation that may last for a few days. A day or so after the sting, pustules or blisters will develop. Clean the area to prevent infection and apply cold compresses to reduce inflammation. See a doctor if you experience hives, swelling or labored breathing, or feel faint. Fire ants aren’t usually life-threatening, but a large number of stings can be deadly.
Try : The treatments recommended for bee and wasp stings.