Soap and Water
If you've got an insect bite that's bugging the heck out of you, one of these non-toxic remedies just might do the trick. But first, it's recommended to wash the area carefully with soap and water as soon as possible, as broken skin can lead to infections.
While many people swear by the following home treatments, not everyone will have the same reactions, so be sure to consult a doctor if you're unsure and especially if you have sensitive skin. For bites or stings that are worsening, cause an allergic reaction, or come from an unknown source, do seek a medical professional.
Tea Tree Oil
Soothe that mosquito bite itch with a few drops of tea tree oil to prevent potentially harmful scratching. Be sure to check with a dermatologist to make sure the brand you have isn't too strong to apply directly to the skin. Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties, plus it smells like you've just stepped into the most serene mediation room. Seriously, is there anything this household favorite can't do?
If you're a nursing or pumping mom, rubbing some of that liquid gold on a bug bite can stop the itching. Breast milk is known to be naturally anti-inflammatory and soothing. In a 2013 study of diaper dermatitis, breast milk was just as effective as hydrocortisone ointments on infants.
If you don't have easy access to breast milk, a mixture of equal parts milk and water might bring the cool relief you need. Dab the affected area with a cloth or cotton ball. Similar to its use as a sunburn treatment, milk compresses can help reduce discomfort and cool the skin.
"The fat and proteins in milk work really well to soothe irritation," Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D., dermatologist and senior vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation, tells Vogue.
If you need instant, temporary relief, play it cool, literally. Cold temperatures can reduce swelling and numb the skin, so place a cold pack or towel-wrapped ice on the bite and enjoy the reprieve.
Tea is a steeped in history as a home remedy for wounds and swellings resulting from bites and stings. Steep one tea bag in boiling water (and why not make an extra cup of tea for you to enjoy as well while you're at it), then let the bag cool in the fridge or dunk it into very cold water. Hold the bag to the bite for 10 to 15 min to draw out excess fluid, reduce swelling and calm the skin. Green tea, especially, is known to ease itching and inflammation, and compression of the tea bag can stem bleeding. Tannins in teas act as astringents and have antiseptic properties.
Another age-old ingredient for relieving bug bites is honey. Though sticky, honey is currently used for dressing wounds, thanks to its antibacterial properties, and could help prevent infections.
Aloe vera isn't just a pretty household plant. For that pesky bite or sting, split open a leaf (or buy a topical gel from the pharmacy) and rub the gel into your skin to alleviate itching, redness or swelling. Aloe vera has been known to promote healing of the skin and to calm infections.
Another handy plant to keep for bites is basil. The herb contains chemical compounds like camphor that create a cooling sensation and provides relief. Crush up a few leaves to release the oils and apply the basil to the bite. Fun fact: Prevent being bitten in the first place with basil, which is also a natural, effective mosquito repellent!
Baking Soda Paste
The safe and multipurpose baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is known to have an amazing range of medicinal and household uses, from baking bread to being used as a natural deodorant and toothpaste. And surprise, surprise, baking soda can also treat acidic insect bites and stings. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with some water and mix to create a sticky paste. Apply it on your skin until it dries to relieve itching.
If you have some witch hazel around, add that to your baking soda mixture for some beautiful synergy. This astringent is great for reducing itching and swelling (and apparently it's great for cleansing and toning the skin too!). The tannin in witch hazel staves off bacteria while healing the skin, which is probably why it's on so many postpartum must-have lists.
The same qualities of baking soda make toothpaste a great alternative for relieving itching and swelling. Menthol, which gives most toothpastes that minty or peppermint flavour, creates a cooling sensation, while the toothpaste's astringency helps draw out the excess fluids from under your skin. Because many drugstore toothpaste brands now have ingredients that might be harmful to your skin and can further irritate it, it's best to do a small patch test first or use only natural or homemade toothpastes.
If you're bitten or stung outdoors and nowhere near a kitchen, medicine cabinet or store, slap on some mud, seriously. The mud (or some dirt and water until it gets paste-like) helps draw out the stinger and toxins. Apply the paste to the sting and cover completely. Later, wash with soap and water.
Lemon or Lime Juice
When life gives you lemons, squeeze 'em on your bug bite! (But make sure you're indoors because applying them out in the sun can give you some nasty burns.) These citrus fruits have a large amount of vitamin C and flavonoids, which are both antioxidants and antibacterial, and they're natural mosquito repellents. Big plus for moms still in need of some serious me-time: The juices can keep your skin feeling rejuvenated and cleansed. So it's kind of like going to the spa, right?
The ancient remedy vinegar was one of the very first antiseptics and medicines, tracing all the way back to the time of the good ol' Greek doc, Hippocrates. Apple cider vinegar, especially, can help soothe your skin after a bug bite or, as a mild insect repellent, can even help prevent bites.
"Apple cider vinegar contains more than 30 important nutrients, a dozen minerals, over half a dozen vitamins and essential amino acids and several enzymes," wrote registered nurse Bonnie K. McMillen.
Put a few drops of vinegar on a cotton ball and dab it on the bites, or if you have bites on several areas of the body, soak in a bath of a few cups of vinegar with warm water.
DIY Calamine Lotion
If you're worried about the ingredients in store-bought calamine lotions, there are some great DIYs around that list all the ingredients you need so you know exactly what you're getting. Many use a combination of four core ingredients ingredients (bentonite clay, baking soda, sea salt and an essential oil), though some also add apple cider vinegar or glycerine. Calamine lotions can calm those itchy bug bites, with the bentonite clay drawing out the fluids and baking soda neutralizing the acid.
Sometimes pain is so much more worth it than itching. According to the Chicago Tribune, the theory goes that if only itch receptors are active, then you will itch. Once you give your skin a little tap or slap, pain rush to your brain instead. As weird as self-inflicting pain sounds, this temporary relief is a better alternative to scratching because digging fingernails under the skin can cause the release of chemicals, such as the histamine initially triggered by the mosquito's saliva, and exacerbate the itching.