Natural approaches to protecting against bug bites

Bugs have always plagued humankind, but there are countless home remedies to relieve the pain and swelling and soothe the maddening itch.

Natural approaches to protecting against bug bites

Even the most beautiful summer day can have a dark side if you get stung by a bee, wasp or mosquito. Since these pests have always plagued humankind, there are countless home remedies to relieve the pain and swelling and soothe the maddening itch.

Mosquito bites are usually a harmless nuisance; however, stings from bees, wasps or hornets can be dangerous. A sting on the mouth or on the throat carries a risk of suffocation and, for people with allergies, a sting anywhere can be life-threatening.

In either case, get to the emergency room immediately. Otherwise you can rely on the wealth of experience from home medicine. If you get bitten by a tick, it's crucial to quickly remove it, including the head. Grasp it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull it out. If the head remains buried, consult a doctor. Be particularly wary of a circular redness spreading around the site of the bite some days or weeks afterward — this can be the first indication of Lyme disease.

Prevention

  • Don't swat bees or wasps.
  • When outdoors, drink only from a clear glass or through a straw to avoid swallowing a wasp.
  • After a picnic, quickly pack up the leftovers so that the smell doesn't attract any insects.
  • Keep away from garbage cans.
  • Use discretion with perfumes and hairsprays — they frequently attract insects.
  • Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt while hiking, if possible, and keep your skin covered up when  in an area where insect bites are likely.
  • Change out of sweaty clothing — sweat always attracts insects.
  • Don't walk barefoot over summer lawns.
  • Avoid tall grass or underbrush where ticks are present.
  • Repel insects by adding five drops of citronella oil to 250 millilitres (one cup) of water and dabbing on exposed skin.

Home remedies

  •  If you're stung by a bee, wasp or hornet, remove the stinger and cool the swelling with running water, a cold pack, or ice cubes wrapped in a cloth.
  • Cleanse the area. Stinging insects may have undesirable bacteria in their venom. Wash the sting well with soap and water or an antiseptic.
  • Neutralize it with lemon or onion juice. To prevent swelling, place fresh slices of onion (a natural anti-inflammatory) or lemon (the acid neutralizes the venom) on the sting.
  • Tea tree oil disinfects and reduces inflammation: put one drop on the site of the sting.
  • Spread a thick paste of baking powder and water onto the site of the sting.
  • Stir together two drops of lemon essential oil and five millilitres (one teaspoon) of honey and spread generously on the site of the sting to prevent inflammation.
  • If you're away from home: coltsfoot and plantain herb can often be found growing at the edge of many highways; crush a leaf between your fingers and press it onto the site of the sting.
  • After removing a tick, disinfect the bite site with a few drops of tea tree oil, iodine or alcohol.
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