You know when you have one of those awkward moments that you think could go viral, if only someone had a camera on you?
Well, recently, my friend was getting ready to meet a painter in her yard when suddenly she saw, in her peripheral vision, a flying critter swoop from above and descend down her V-neck shirt. Faster than you can say “bugger” she was stung or bit on not one… but both of her breasts. It then dropped out the bottom of her shirt and flew away. Talk about insult to injury! It happened so fast she panicked and what followed was a lawn dance the likes of which her neighbors have never seen. The chaos that ensued could’ve gone viral if someone had a phone handy.
So I said to her, “Did you apply meat tenderizer? Ammonia?” She said no, but was grateful that she had taken some Benadryl in the wee hours of the morning to get her back to sleep after a night of insomnia. She suspects (and I agree) that the inflammation and pain could have been much worse. I call this story “One Bee, Two Boobs”.
So what do you do if you are stung or bitten by a nasty little critter and you happen to NOT have diphenhydramine in your system? I assume that most of us don’t typically walk around in a Bena-coma most of the time. 😉 Luckily, there are a host of remedies for insect attacks and other summer “owwies” that you can find at your local pharmacy – or in your kitchen.
If you have it in your first aid kit, I’d recommend hydrocortisone cream for most minor skin irritations. If not, here are several cures for the stings of summer that you can whip up at home:
It’s good for itchiness caused by mild rashes and helps sunburns too. Take quick-cooking or rolled oats (not instant) and put them into a food processor or coffee grinder to make a fine powder. Mix that with a small amount of water to make a paste called “colloidal” oatmeal. Apply the paste to your sting or rash, or alternatively, put a cup or two of the fine oatmeal into your bath for all-over itch relief.
Place a tea bag in a cup of hot water and steep for a minute then cool it in the fridge for a few minutes. Put the cold tea bag right on the bite site for 5 minutes. The naturally-occurring tannins in tea are what make it bitter, but these tannins also draw the poison out and ease discomfort. English or Irish Breakfast Tea as well as Assam Black Tea are all considered high tannic teas.
There are endless ways to use this beautiful flower. One of my favorites is lavender essential oil, which you just apply to the skin, sometimes with a carrier oil, sometimes undiluted. You can steep lavender in water and make a compress. If you’re having trouble with wound healing, or want adjunctive skin-loving remedies, keep in mind that lavender is surprisingly one of the most potent essential oils to fight skin MRSA.
Use white or apple cider vinegar. Mix it 50/50 with water and use a cotton ball to dab the mixture to your sore for instant itch relief.
This contains papain which breaks up poisons from insect venom. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon into a little cup and add some water, perhaps a teaspoon or two just to make a paste and dab directly onto the bite. The sooner after you get stung, the better!
Insect venom is usually acidic and ammonia is alkaline so this neutralizes the poison, and is best applied as soon as possible to the bee or wasp sting. Some people recommend to dab it on straight, others suggest to dilute 50/50 with water. I’ve even read where people used a dab of Windex(!), however that’s only 5% ammonia. Ammonia is the active ingredient in one common over-the-counter itch-erasing stick.
You might not even think of this one but it’s super effective at reducing inflammation and numbing the area. Just wrap a cube in a paper towel and apply for 5 or 10 minutes. Ice feels nice on bites!
Lemons and Limes.
The citric acid in these fruits can numb the itch. You can even squeeze the juice from one lime (or one lemon) into a cup of water and put into the refrigerator. When the mixture is cold, make a compress with a washcloth and apply. You can also store the lemon-water in a spray bottle in the fridge and squirt when the need arises.
The mint kind is ideal because it’s the menthol in the toothpaste which makes for a nice cooling sensation while reducing swelling. Just apply a thin layer and let it dry. You can rinse it off whenever the discomfort subsides.
I always have clay around my house (doesn’t everyone?) and would suggest you use either plain bentonite clay or montmorillonite clay. Just make a paste out of the clay with water and apply it to your bite. It will dry and crack a little bit, then you can wash it off whenever you want.
This is so crazy amazing you won’t even believe it. Many people grow plantain leaves, but if you don’t, many health food stores sell it. Plantain leaves are useful for relieving boils, blisters, and the sting of many bug bites. Crushing the leaves and just rubbing onto mosquito bites can help with itching and prevent welting if done soon enough. You can also make a poultice, or you can steep the leaves for 10 minutes in simmering water and then cool the mixture to make a compress. Commercial preparations of plantain extract are also available.
Eucalyptus or Tea Tree Oil.
Both are excellent soothers of insect bites and minor skin irritations.
If you have a plant at home, you might be used to snapping off the end of a leaf to use the wonderful gel inside to soothe sunburns. But did you know that a little aloe love on a bug bite can provide instant relief as well?
One final note on this topic applies to the vitamins that make up the B complex. The B complex vitamins are very important, and especially a B vitamin complex product that contains vitamin B1 (thiamine). You probably know the B vitamins for their role in supporting neurological health and as the “anti-stress” vitamins.* The B vitamins also support adrenal health and reduce cortisol, a stress hormone in your body.* But with regard to bug bites, there is some compelling research that interests me.
According to one study, although it is quite old, thiamine (vitamin B1) causes your skin to produce a mild odor that, while it is completely imperceptible to humans, it is offensive to mosquitoes.* So if you know you’re going outside for July Fourth fireworks, or on a camping trip, or to the lake or the beach, then you might want to discourage bug bites by taking either a B complex vitamin supplement for the entire week prior to the Fourth, or, in the alternative, 100 milligrams of thiamine daily.
Should you take a B complex vitamin supplement or just take thiamine? It’s really up to you. Taking thiamine by itself would be okay to prevent you from becoming a bug buffet; however, I do want you to know that taking just one of the B vitamins in a high dose can tilt your other Bs out of whack. A good B complex vitamin supplement will certainly contain thiamine, as well as all of its brother and sister Bs — folate, pyridoxine, cobalamin, etc.
Because thiamine does not accumulate since it’s water soluble, you will eliminate any excess thiamine your body doesn’t use through your urine, sweat, and skin. One form of thiamine is known as benfotiamine. Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble form of thiamine that penetrates the lipid layers of your body (including your skin), so you can certainly use this form of thiamine if you prefer.
And, if you would like a high-quality B complex vitamin supplement, then you should certainly check out my B-Complex. Either way, if you’ve taken a B complex supplement in anticipation of summer bug season, that might explain why you don’t get bit up but your spouse gets eaten alive!
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.