Ask The Pharmacist: 7 home remedies for stings, bug bites

Suzy Cohen

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 outside when a bug swooped from above and descended 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.

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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 at 3 a.m. that morning to help with insomnia. She suspects (and I agree) that the inflammation and pain could have been much worse. We joked about her story and dubbed it “One Bee, Two Boobs.”

Yellow jacket

what do you do if you are stung or bitten by a nasty little critter? 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.


Put quick-cooking or rolled oats into a food processor or coffee grinder to make a fine powder. Mix that with a small amount of water to make a paste. Apply this paste to your sting. You can also take a bath with oatmeal for all-over itch relief.

Black tea

Put a cold tea bag on the bite site for five minutes. The naturally-occurring “tannins” in tea are what make it bitter, but these tannins also draw the poison out and ease discomfort. English Breakfast Tea is high in tannins.


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.

Meat tenderizer

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.

Ice cubes

It’s super effective at reducing inflammation and numbing the area. Just wrap a cube in a paper towel and apply for five or 10 minutes. Ice feels nice on bites!


The menthol in toothpaste makes for a nice cooling sensation while reducing swelling. Just apply a thin layer and let it dry.

If you’d like to read a longer version of this article with more natural and inexpensive home remedies, sign up for my newsletter at and I’ll email it to you.

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