Ask The Pharmacist: Bug bite remedies

Bug bite remedies

Question: I use hydrocortisone cream for my bug bites. It works, but is there something else to manage this or the pain and itch? Me and my kids get bit frequently and I don’t like the idea of ‘taking a bath’ in chemical creams. K.K., Tulsa, Oklahoma

Answer: I have other “bath” ideas to share with you. What you do for a bug bite depends on the type of critter. For example, bites from bees, wasps, yellow jackets and fire ants are the most common. Unless you’re highly allergic, these bites can be treated at home. Bites from scorpions and certain spiders often require medical attention. Bites from ticks (if you’re lucky enough to see it, because you won’t feel it) should be treated with prescribed antibiotics for at least four weeks.

Let me keep it simple today. Pharmacists like hydrocortisone cream because it works quickly, controls the itch, pain, swelling and redness. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) cream may help in this regard too. Lidocaine, or numbing sprays provide yet another option to minimize pain. Here are other potential solutions:

Ice pack: The cold takes down swelling and pain.

Baking soda: Right after you get bit, make a paste using baking soda and water, add in meat tenderizer if you have it. Wash the paste and reapply every 15 minutes for about an hour. It helps with pain, itch and redness. The meat tenderizer neutralizes venom injected into you by the bug.

Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: Over-the-counter medications that temporarily control pain.

Oral antihistamines: Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is often used to control full-body itching. Don’t say I didn’t warn you (yawn) this stuff can knock you out. No driving!

Toothpaste: Fluoride in toothpaste seems to calm the sting.

Essential oils: Lavender oil is soothing and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-venom aid. Peppermint oil and lavender both reduce risk of infection. Tea tree oil may disinfect the area. These oils may sting if you apply undiluted. For some, a 50/50 mix with a carrier oil, like olive or coconut might be better. You can put essential oils in your bath. Speaking of baths ...

Peroxide and Epsom salts: Dump the whole four pound back of Epsom salts in warm (not hot) water, along with a pint (or two) of hydrogen peroxide. This home remedy has anecdotal evidence; it’s a very strong detoxifying bath and might cause an unpleasant Herxheimer reaction the first few times, so get your doctor’s blessings. It’s not right for everyone.

Aveeno oatmeal: This is 100 percent Colloidal Oatmeal that helps to control itching; you pour the flakes under the faucet of your bath and soak in it. Think that’s weird? It’s not compared to what I say next.

Preparation H Hemorrhoidal Cream: It contains pramoxine which controls pain.

Chiggerex: Chiggers are immature mites and not easily seen. Their itch is diabolic, compared to their microscopic size! Chiggerex is sold at pharmacies and brings quick relief.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Always consult your physician. Visit

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Comments » 1

muskybob writes:

I am an old retired pharmacist (80) the best cure and treatment for chiggers is Chloroform Liniment. I have recommended it many times over the years. Many people returned to the store and thanked me and said it is the first time anything worked for chiggers.

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