Ask The Pharmacist: Quick remedies to soothe bug bites, stings

Suzy Cohen

Bugs are not my favorite thing. Even after living in Florida for 35 years, I never grew accustomed to them. If you’re like me and would rather not admit defeat in the summer by staying indoors, then go ahead and enjoy the outdoors. You can always soothe your bug bites with my tips below.

While getting bug bites is a summer rite of passage, you can reduce the itching, swelling and pain that come along with mosquito, chigger, tick bites and more by following these tips

Just FYI, the B vitamin trick doesn’t really work. Some people assume that taking B vitamins repels mosquitos and prevents bug bites, but that’s simply not true. You’re still going to get attacked because mosquitoes are more attracted by carbon dioxide and heat, which all of us put off. So forget the B vitamin trick. Here are some soothing ways to deal with bug bites. 

Ice cubes

Ice is a foolproof method for relieving irritation from insect bites on contact. Not only does ice temporarily numb the pain, it also reduces swelling and inflammation so that your injury heals faster.  

Tea bags

While you might typically turn to tea to soothe your emotional state, this potent brew can aid sensitive skin as well. The tannins in green and black tea are natural astringents, working quickly to ease discomfort.


Roughly chopped green tomatoes will be simmered in stock until softened, then blended with cooked onion, garlic and chiles.

Eating garlic the day before you go for a hike is a good idea. As you sweat, you waft a sulfur compound, and bugs hate it. Alternatively, cut a clove in half and apply it to your skin. Be careful though, it occasionally exacerbates your irritation, especially if it’s not diluted with coconut or olive oil.

Essential oils

Tea tree oil and lavender are stellar options for bug bites. Put a wad of lotion in your palm and then 1 drop of Tea Tree, and 5 drops of Lavender essential oil. Dab this onto your wound and it’s instantly soothing.

Aloe vera

Most people are familiar with aloe vera for burns. It is a good first aid plant to have growing in your yard or in a pot.
Most people are familiar with aloe vera for burns. It is a good first aid plant to have growing in your yard or in a pot.

Just slice open a fresh aloe leaf and apply the succulent’s gooey gel to the sting.  Allow it to dry in place on your skin. The aloe plant’s anti-inflammatory properties make it valuable for healing minor wounds and reducing risk of infection. 


Basil isn’t just for pesto! for basil. This fragrant herb contains a chemical compound called eugenol, which relieves itchy, irritated skin. You can steep a tablespoon of dried herb (or six fresh leaves) in about two cups of water. Let it cool, then apply the basil-infused water to your skin with a compress.

Meat tenderizer

Mix it with water to make a paste, then apply to the sting. It works on contact. 

Now you know the best ways to take care of yourself if you happen to get bit. Of course, it’s ideal to stay out of bug infested areas. Antihistamines and analgesics can be used for relief if necessary too. It’s smart to avoid wearing yellow in bee territory. Also, lighting a citronella candle (or using citronella bug spray) will keep insects away from your patio space.  

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