7 Home Remedies for Damn Itchy Bug and Mosquito Bites

Posted on
Sep 29, 2011

Hi – I’m back! Forgive the lag in blogging. I blame Peru. That place is magical.

I’ve loads to tell you about that trip – and heck, I’m not even done telling you about Kansas or my trip to Lake Placid, Florida (please try to contain your excitement). But all of that will have to wait, because presently, I want to take a piece of sandpaper or, failing that, a cheese grater, to my ankle. It’s covered in bug bites attained at Macchu Pichu, and it’s positively killing me. While I’m blessed to not suffer from allergies (unless, say, I shove my face directly into a cat and breathe in deeply, which I’m sure we’ve all done once or thrice), there is one thing I am severely allergic to: mosquito bites. They usually swell up to the size of a quarter, and have literally woken me from a restful sleep with the sting.

I took a photo of my bug-bitten ankle thinking it would be impressive, but instead it looks disappointingly normal, so I now seem like a huge wuss. Behold:

The cropping on this photo is excellent. You can see neither my hairy legs nor my wonky toe. Huzzah!

But believe me when I tell you that, right up until the second I took this picture, it was covered with red welts from a team of incredibly industrious mosquitoes up in the Peruvian mountains. I had literally 2 inches of leg showing between my the bottom of my cuffed jeans and the top of my ankle socks, and they went for it. Yes, I realize that cropped jeans don’t necessarily look good on someone with my frame (i.e., short, pear-shaped). Perhaps the little jerks that bit me were just fashionistas trying to teach me a lesson.

One particularly brave member of their crew managed to fly up my pant leg, like a insect equivalent of Hiram Bingham, and made it up to my knee before I squashed him with a slap. I hope he finds solace in the insect afterlife knowing that his earthly remains will be a part of my jeans forever, or at least until I wash them.

I felt no small measure of sadness when I returned home and found that these bug bites are indeed the only souvenirs I have from our visit to the Inca ruins. Still, I’m not sad to see them go. If, like me, you can’t deal with mosquito bites (or any bug bite that leaves you itching and stinging), and often find yourself on the road with no drugstore in sight, here are my home remedies and cures for getting a little bit of relief. (And obviously, if you have a more severe reaction than just itching, GO TO THE DOCTOR. Duh.)

  1. Ice. It never ever occurred to me to apply an ice-pack to a bug bite, but it totally works. Granted, you’ll seem a bit melodramatic, hoisting your poor red limb up onto a table as though you had a real injury, but about 10 minutes of applying an ice pack will give you an hour or more of itch-free relief. It’s glorious.
  2. Aspirin. Instead of popping the pills, grind them up into a powder, add a drop of two of water to make a paste, and apply it to your bug bites. Leave it on overnight and wash off in the morning. Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory, and it works even topically (this also is great for big red zits. Apply the paste to red spots at night, and wash off in the morning. Hope no one sees you in the interim).
  3. Alcohol. No, no, no. Put that margarita down. That is so NOT what I meant. If you have rubbing alcohol (or any liquid that contains a high content of alcohol, like mouthwash or, hell, vodka) dab a little on the bug-bites. It should relieve the itching and will disinfect the bite (helping to prevent infection).
  4. Toothpaste. Just a dab of toothpaste (preferably the cheap, white, pasty kind) can help relieve itching of bites. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and ingredients like baking soda and menthol help to relieve the irritation. And you obviously have toothpaste with you on your trip, RIGHT?
  5. Hydrocortisone cream. I take a small tube of hydrocortisone with me wherever I go. Most of the time it never gets used, but when I actually need it, I feel absolutely brilliant for having dragged it with me. It relieves the itch and redness, and works on all manner of skin irritations, allergic reactions, and bites. I’ve also been known to dab it on zits at night to relieve redness.
  6.  Pop some Sudafed or Benadryl. It absolutely shocked me that this worked, because I’ve always sucked at biology and don’t understand the human body. But taking an antihistamine pill can relieve itching for hours – it blocks your body’s reaction to the bite, which caused the irritation in the first place. Just half a Benadryl tab worked for me for hours.
  7. Salt. Lots of sites suggest making a paste with regular old salt and some water and applying it to bug bites to relieve sting. While I’ve never tried this technique, I suspect it works: as I kid, I remember that going to beach and swimming in the ocean was always a great relief after a group of bugs had dined upon me.

For what to do when someone has a more serious reaction, check out the Mayo Clinic’s first aid guide to insect bites and stings. And as a preventative measure in the future, avoid bananas and perfume (for the record, “Bananas and Perfume” would be a great band name). Bugs are attracted to your skin when you’ve applied perfumes, hair sprays, and gels. Ditto for when you’ve eaten bananas. So try to hold off on doing either. I know. There go my weekend plans, too.

And just remember, as annoying as they are, mosquitoes clearly have an important purpose on this earth.

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