Homesteading

20 Home Remedies for Bug Bites and Stings that Itch & Swell

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It’s that time of year again! Along with fun in the sun, one often ends up dealing with insect bites and stings from mosquitoes, bees, wasps, spiders and all things creepy crawly. These home remedies for bug bites and stings are easy to use and feature common household items. You’ll be free of itching and swelling in record time.

When I got stung by a wasp, I shared my favorite home remedy for bug bites on our Common Sense Home Facebook page. So many people chimed in with their favorite remedies that I decided to put together a post to share them all.

20 Home Remedies for Bug Bites and Stings

Home Remedies for Bug Bites and Stings – What gets rid of bug bites fast?

When you get bit or stung, your immune system reacts to the saliva or venom of the insect or arachnid, causing itching and swelling. Thankfully, most reactions are temporary. All of these remedies are reader tested, and work to reduce itching and inflammation fast.

Try not to scratch your bug bites or stings! The more you scratch, the more histamines your body releases, increasing the itching and swelling.

If you have a severe reaction with hives, difficulty breathing, swollen throat, or swelling that spreads well beyond the contact area, please see a trained medical professional ASAP.

#1 – Ice and Benadryl (diphenhydramine)

Note: Most of the time I only use remedies that are applied directly to the bite/sting, but taking oral diphenhydramine in addition to topical treatment may be helpful for severe reactions.

Susan B. says, “Try elevating your hand with your hand wrapped around an ice pack (just icing the finger probably won’t help and may actually make it feel worse… ice pack in hand works better).

I get allergic reactions. I ALWAYS take Benadryl (diphenhydramine) if stung by anything. But even if you aren’t, it will reduce the histamine reaction caused by the sting and it will help with the pain and swelling.”

#2 – Hot Compresses

Some people prefer heat over cold. Linda noted on Facebook, “A hot compress applied several times stops the sting. Some people heat up a spoon and apply to bite.

Two of us got bit by a hornet. I applied hot cloth and other person used an ice pack. Mine stopped swelling and stinging within minutes and I am allergic.”

#3 – Plantain (Plantago species)

Common Plantain and narrowleaf plantain are excellent home remedies for bug bites and stings of all sorts. Simply find a leaf, chew it up (or otherwise mash it to release the juices), and apply it to the affected area.

Alternatively, you can infuse the leaves in oil and use the oil for treating larger areas, or make it into a salve for portability.

I use fresh plantain leaf for individual bites or stings, and I’ve used the infused oil on my backside when it got covered in mosquito bites. I keep a small container of the salve in my purse.

Tina Jo uses sage to treat bug bites in a similar manner.

One thing I’ve used that works well for me is sage. The method is just like the one for plantain. Get a leaf, chew or mash it up, and apply to the bite or sting. Dried sage works as well, crushed up, though it will have to be remoisturized in some fashion.

For myself (and my family), I just spit on it enough to make a paste. Mixing it with water works too, but, personally, I think saliva works better.

lavender and clay for bug bites and stings
Lavender, clay, and simple homemade salves help reduce inflammation and relieve swelling

#4 – Essential Oils

Laurie G. says, “Lavender oil is the best remedy for bites and stings! When I owned a lavender/herb farm, yellow jacket stings happened frequently! Put one drop on bees stings, mosquito bites or any other bite or burn. It relieves the pain and itch fast!” 

Modern Essentials:  A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils suggests the use of basil, clove, tea tree oil and lemon essential oils as topical home remedies for bug bites and stings. They can also help you avoid bug bites when diffused in a carrier oil and applied to the skin.

Try Nature’s Willow Bug Bite Balm, Natural Insect Bite Pain & Itch Relief for portable bug bite relief.

#5 – Ammonia

Bobby L. says, “Use plain old unscented ammonia. It’s the best sting reliever in the world!” 

Patricia W. agrees. “Get some ammonia on it ASAP. It will negate the venom. Even Windex with ammonia will do in a pinch.”

#6 – Sugar

Rhiannon M. shared, “My daughter was stung on her foot while we were camping. Another camper brought her a damp paper towel with a mushed up sugar cube on it and that took the sting away as soon as it was applied.

After holding it on for about 10 minutes she could take it off and there was no sting. A few weeks later I was stung and tried the same thing, and it worked like a charm.”

#7 – Copper Pennies

This may be the strangest of our home remedies for bug bites and stings, but copper is naturally antibacterial. Missi Z. recommends, “Put a copper penny on the bite. It worked for me, and I’m allergic.”

#8 – Baking Soda

Lisa G. says, “Make a paste of baking soda and water. It will draw out the poison and take away the pain.” Baking soda has a long history of use as an anti itch skin care treatment.

Jo S. remembers, “I got stung by one in elementary school. It was “hat day” so of course the little bugger got up under my hat. I never cried so hard in my life – it hurt like hell! Baking soda will ease the pain.”

#9 – Activated Charcoal

Hilary S. commented,  “Activated charcoal works wonders!”  CharcoalRemedies.com has a whole page of testimonials from people who have successfully used charcoal to treat stings from hornets, yellowjackets and honey bees, such as this one:

“My oldest daughter got into a wasps nest and had over 35 stings on her legs, by the time I got her home (5 to 10 minute trip) her legs had swelled and welts had formed all over her legs, she couldn’t walk.

We slathered her down with a charcoal paste out in the sun and let it dry, and then rinsed it and slathered her down again, after the second time when we rinsed her legs off there was no swelling and no welts could be seen.”- Marianne, 6/06

#10 – Meat Tenderizer

Pamela S. agreed that getting stung on your fingers was a bad idea, and getting stung other places didn’t feel any better.

“Another tip…while bending over weeding or pruning always keep an eye on your rear end…OUCH! If by chance you have meat tenderizer…make a paste with a little water and apply and hold on. It neutralizes the venom.”

#11 – Onion Poultice

Gardenhappyacres suggests, “Onion poultice – the pain is gone the minute it touches the sting area!”

To make an onion poultice, chop your onion finely and cook with a little water until tender (not brown). Wrap warm onion in cheesecloth, medical wrap or flour sack towel and apply to affected area.

Roxanna says that she use just plain, chopped onion for stings, especially yellowjacket stings. “People are stunned at how well this instantly reduces swelling!”

#12 – Epsom Salts and Honey

Liz M. shares her favorite remedy for sting:  “Pulverize Epsom salts and honey together to make a thick paste. Rub it on and leave it. When it wears off, repeat as needed until the swelling nd itching goes down.” Honey has natural antibacterial properties, so it also reduces the risk of infection.

#13 – Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is great for treating burns and sunburn, but you can also use it as a home remedy for bug bites and stings. Slice open a leaf and apply the gel from inside directly on the bite. For extra anti itch relief, chill the leaf before use.

#14 – Aspirin

Try mixing a crushed aspirin with enough water to form a paste and applying it to the sting or bite to reduce pain and swelling.

mud for bug bites and stings
Mud is great for getting rid of the itch from mosquito bites

#15 – Mud

Lin from Yellow Springs, Ohio recommends mud on Earth Clinic: “Mud has cured my family’s external bee stings for over 35 years. Wherever you are, there is mud, all you need is a little water. Just make a paste and slap it on.

I’ve used it for a one year old baby whose piercing screams stopped within seconds, for a panicked customer in a store to our dog’s paw just yesterday. The mud does it all, draws out the stinger and the poison – fast.

Leave on from 2-20 min. Rinse off, then wash with soap and water. Relax and have a glass of water.”

#16 – Raw Potato

From Auntie Maime: “Many, many moons ago, when I was a girl, we had an apple tree that we were able to share with an Amish family. While helping them pick, I was stung by a couple of yellow jackets.

The young mother saw and told me to quickly get a potato, cut it, and hold it on the stings. It worked great! Takes the pain out and holds down the swelling. Used it ever since if tobacco and baking soda were not handy.”

#17 – Living Clay

Sheila likes living clay. She notes,”My favorite home remedy for bug bites and stings is “living” clay, sprinkled on as powder or mixed with water into a paste. Taken internally and/or used externally, it’s amazing how well it works.

It’s a wonder product that has replaced most other options for me, my family and pets… I try it first & rarely need go to anything more. Try it.”

(They carry Living Clay Detox Clay Powder 8 oz. All Natural Calcium Bentonite Clay on Amazon.com.)

#18 – Apple Cider Vinegar

For spot treatment, soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and hold it on the bite or sting. You can also mix equal parts of flour and ACV to make an easy to apply paste, or add several cups of vinegar to a warm bath.

#19 – Oatmeal Bath

Oatmeal baths are the classic anti itch treatment. Place one cup of oatmeal into an old sock and tie the end closed. Place the oatmeal filled sock in a bathtub of warm water. As you sit in the bath, squeeze the sock to release the soothing oatmeal “juice” into the water and onto the itchy spots.

This is great way to get the soothing effects of oatmeal without clogging your drain with oatmeal chunks. When you’re done, simply empty the sock into the compost.

#20 – Household Bleach for Fire Ant Bites

For fire ant bites, Ike recommends, “household bleach, immediately, or as soon as possible. Use a q-tip to apply it to the bite. The fire ant bite contains formic acid, and bleach is an anti acid, which reduces inflammation.”

Note: It’s probably best to dilute the bleach with water before application. Mix half bleach and half water.

What’s your preferred Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings?

With all these options, you should be able find home remedies for bug bites and strings wherever you are.

Which remedy do you prefer, and are there ones that I have missed? Let me know, and don’t forget to Pin, Share or otherwise pass along this post. Thank you!

To help avoid bug bites and stings, try:

Originally published June 2013, last updated in 2021.

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