Insects such as ticks, wasps, and mosquitoes have plagued human beings for centuries. As a result, some highly effective home remedies have evolved to relieve the pain and swelling and to soothe that maddening itch.
Stings from bees, wasps, and fire ants can be painful but are usually harmless. Some people have a more serious allergic reaction and emergency treatment is vital. While most spiders are harmless to humans, some species (black widow and brown recluse spiders in the U.S.) are highly venomous and require antivenom. In regions where mosquitoes are known to transmit diseases such as West Nile virus, take precautions to prevent bites. But usually, mosquito bites are just a nuisance and together with other minor stings can be treated with home remedies.
- If you are stung by a bee or wasp, remove the stinger, scraping it out with a fingernail or hard object. Do not remove it with tweezers, as this can squeeze more venom into the skin.
- To relieve the pain of bee, wasp, and ant stings, soak a cloth in very cold water and wring it out, or use an ice pack covered with a damp cloth.
- Cleanse the area. Stinging insects may have undesirable bacteria in their venom. Wash the sting well with soap and water or use an antiseptic wipe.
- To prevent swelling, place fresh slices of onion (a natural anti-inflammatory) or lemon on the sting.
- Stir together 2 drops of peppermint essential oil and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) honey and spread generously on the site of the sting to prevent inflammation.
- Always remove ticks promptly, as in some areas prolonged bites can cause Lyme disease. After removing a tick (see above right), disinfect the site with a few drops of tea tree oil, iodine, or alcohol.
WHEN TO CONSULT A DOCTOR –
A sting on the mouth or throat carries a risk of suffocation and, for people with allergies, a sting anywhere can be life-threatening. In either case, go straight to the hospital. If bitten by a spider, seek medical advice right away (kill the spider or trap it in a jar and take it with you for identification).
If you develop a rash around the bite site or a high temperature within 3 weeks of a tick’s removal, seek medical advice. If you develop fever, joint pains, and rash up to 3 weeks after a mosquito bite, see a doctor.
Good to Know –
Tick bite –
If you get bitten by a tick, it is crucial to remove it quickly, including the head. Grasp it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it out. If the head remains buried, consult a doctor. Be particularly wary of a circular rash spreading around the site of the bite some days or weeks afterward or if you develop a fever of over 100°F (38°C)—this can be the first indication of Lyme disease, a very serious condition.
- Don’t swat bees or wasps.
- Use perfumes and hairsprays sparingly—they frequently attract insects.
- When mosquito bites are likely, wear light colors, pants, and long sleeves to keep your skin covered.
- Sweat attracts insects. Change sweaty clothes quickly.
- Use a mosquito net when sleeping with open windows and without insect screens.
- Avoid walking through moist, bushy areas, as ticks may be present, especially if deer are in the area.
- Repel insects by adding 5 drops of citronella oil to 1 cup (250 ml) water and dabbing it on exposed skin.