Bites and Stings

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Natural remedies for wasp and bee stings

  • Scrape away the stinger as soon as possible using the edge of a credit card, a knife blade or your fingernail. As long as it remains in your skin, this little sac of poison keeps pumping its contents into your body. Don’t use tweezers or pinch the stinger with your fingertips, since you’ll squeeze more venom into your skin.
  • As soon as you have the stinger out, soak the area in apple cider vinegar for a few minutes. Dip a cotton ball in vinegar and tape it to the sting site. It will help relieve redness and swelling.
  • Treat the area with meat tenderiser right after you’re stung. It contains enzymes that break down the venom, reducing swelling and inflammation. Take a few spoonfuls of meat tenderiser powder, add enough water to form a paste, smear the paste on, and leave it on for an hour.
  • Apply an aspirin paste to stop the itching. Using the back of a spoon, crush one or two aspirin on a small plate or cutting board. Add just enough water to make a paste, then dab the paste on the sting site. Ingredients in aspirin help to neutralise the venom.
  • Apply an ice pack to numb the area and help slow the swelling. If you have a towel or washcloth between the ice pack and your skin, you can leave the ice pack in place for up to 20 minutes.
  • Bicarbonate of soda can give relief. One method of application is to mix bi-carb of soda with a skin lotion, then apply it to the sensitive area. The bi-carb of soda helps relieve inflammation, and the skin lotion keeps it in place. Alternatively, you can mix one teaspoon of bi-carb of soda in a glass of water, let it dissolve, then apply the mixture with a cotton pad or washcloth. Leave the compress in place for 20 minutes.
  • Cut an onion, then rub it over the sting site. Doctors aren’t quite sure how this works, but the onion contains enzymes that seem to break down inflammatory compounds. Other people swear by smearing a crushed clove of garlic over the skin.
  • Sugar works, too. Just dip your forefinger in water, dab it in sugar, then touch the sting site.
  • Tea-tree oil will also help reduce the swelling. Apply one drop several times a day.
  • To stop the itching, dab on a drop or two of lavender oil. Wait about fifteen minutes to allow the oil to take effect. If the area starts to itch again, apply more—but just one or two drops at a time.


Natural remedies for insect bites

  • Rub an ice cube on the bug bite right away. This helps decrease the inflammation that causes itching.
  • Underarm deodorants have ingredients that reduce skin irritation. If you get a bug bite, try any deodorant and see if it works.
  • Apply a drop or two of peppermint oil. It has a cooling effect, and also increases circulation to the bite, speeding the healing process. Alternatively, if you have toothpaste that contains peppermint oil, apply a dab.
  • Look for an anti-itch spray or gel that contains menthol, a classic skin-soother. Keep the product in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. The coolness will provide extra itch relief.
  • Buy anti-itch cream that contains a topical anaesthetic to numb the area. Some also contain hydrocortisone to stop the swelling and antihistamine to counter the allergic reaction.


Prevent insect and spider bites

  • Use a bug spray that contains DEET, the most effective insect repellent for use on the skin. Adults can safely use any DEET product (following directions on the label). Children should not be exposed to a cream that exceeds 6% DEET.
  • Before heading into the bush, treat your clothing with one of the many insect repellents.
  • Citronella, an oil that comes from a type of grass, is found in bug-repelling candles, as well as bug sprays. Follow label directions.
  • To keep bees away, avoid wearing perfumes or scented products, keep food and fizzy drinks covered, and don’t wear bright clothing, especially floral patterns.


When to call the doctor

If you’ve been bitten by a spider, call the doctor immediately. If you’ve been stung by a bee or wasp and then have trouble breathing, feel faint, or have swelling in your mouth or throat, a rapid pulse, or hives, get to an emergency room. You could be having a potentially fatal allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. And see a doctor if you develop a bull’s-eye rash, muscle aches, fever, and headache within three weeks after getting a tick bite; these could be signs of Lyme disease, which can lead to mental confusion and arthritis if not treated.


Identify the spider

If you know you’ve been bitten by a spider, try to memorize its appearance. Some spiders can cause serious symptoms affecting your whole body, while others just create a localized reaction. Whether or not you have a severe reaction, get medical attention right away.


How to deal with ticks

If you’re been in tick territory, be sure to follow this advice.

  • After you’ve been in the bush or weeds, strip off your clothes and check yourself from head to toe. (Have your spouse or partner check parts of your body you can’t see.)
  • If you find a tick that hasn’t attached to your skin, grasp it with a napkin or piece of toilet paper, and flush it down the toilet.
  • If a tick has already latched onto your skin, use tweezers to grab it by the head, as close to your skin as possible. Slowly pull upward until it lets go. If you yank it off, the head can break off in your skin and remain there until infection sets in.
  • Preserve any tick that has been embedded in your skin in a zipped-up plastic sandwich bag. If you develop a rash, your doctor can analyze the tick to see whether it carries Lyme disease. A rash can show up from three days to a month later, so keep that bagged tick for a while before flushing it away.




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