Spring or summer, those warm days and cool nights sure do make the great outdoors mighty inviting. However, this is also when all sorts of bugs and insects come alive; hungry and eager to take a huge chunk out of any part of your exposed skin. Whether you are deep in the mountains hiking a killer trail or just relaxing with your family in your backyard, there’s no escaping nature’s little vampires.
And as if ruining a good day in the sun wasn’t enough, some of these pesky insects and bugs carry some of the deadliest viruses and diseases known to man. If you’ve been bitten or stung by a bug and are wondering whether you’ll make it, then please pardon me for rambling on.
I mean, I’m just here yapping while an arachnid’s venom could be coursing through your veins and inching closer to your heart as we speak. But don’t worry; besides a doctor’s office, this is the single best place you could be for any insect bite related hogwash. Why? Because you just landed on the ultimate, in-depth guide to everything you ever need to know about bug bites.
First Things First, What Are Bug Bites?
The world is full of millions of species of insects that will either bite or sting if they come near you. High chances are that you will definitely come across a couple of those in your life.
While some of the stings will be as a result of distress or being provoked such as with bees or wasps, others will literally be bites for food such as mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.
So to answer the questions, bug bites are lacerations or small puncture wounds on your skin made by biting and stinging insects. But how exactly do you know you’ve been bitten or stung?
Symptoms Of Bug Bites
Well, most people are immediately aware that they’ve been stung because they catch the perpetrator fleeing shortly after the crime. While you might be infuriated (and for good reason! dumb bugs), it’s in your best interest not to provoke the attacking insect.
Once you are bitten, the initial contact can be painful and depending on the bug; it will be followed by an allergic reaction. Some insects are harmless, and people are not even aware that they’ve been stung until some symptoms appear. If you notice the following symptoms, then you may have been stung or bitten:
- Concentrated swelling on the affected area
- Redness or a rash developing with a bull’s eye on the bite
- Pain, itching or heat around the affected site
- Tingling sensation or numbness on affected area
However, these are just the mild symptoms. Some people could develop severe symptoms that require immediate medical treatment. These include:
- Rapid heartbeat with fever
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Swelling around the throat, tongue, and lips
- Confusion, disorientation and/or loss of consciousness
If you or your friends notice any of these symptoms, contact emergency services instantly if there’s a severe reaction. First aid instructions usually involve waiting for the medics, but it helps if you loosen any tight clothing and perform CPR on victim if breathing stops.
There are also some home remedies for harmless bug bites that we will look into later on. First; you have to know what actually bit or stung you in the first place.
Types Of Bug Bites
Many insects bite and sting, but very few of them do so intentionally. And although most of these bites are harmless and will only leave a small spot behind, the last thing you want to do is leave it to chance. That’s why I’ve categorized all the different types of bug bites according to their culprits. Have a look at the wide range of bites and see which one best fits your description.
a) Tick Bites
Typically found in brush or plant cover, ticks attach to animals and people and bite them in an effort to draw blood. Tick bites are usually large and conspicuous. While harmless, these bites and carry serious diseases such as Rocky Mountain or Lyme Disease. Ticks attach to warm, moist and hard to see areas such as the scalp, groin, armpits, skin folds and other hairy areas of your body.
b) Flea Bites
Fleas are not just a problem for pets anymore – they can make hosts of people too. The little buggers may be small and wingless, but they can jump for extremely long distances. Flea bites leave small, itchy pimples with blood spots that will break open if scratched.
c) Fire Ant Bites
Known for one of the most painful bites from any insect, the Red Imported Fire Ant is mainly found in the Southern US. They are reddish brown, have a stinger at the rear and tend to build large mounds of dirt in sunny spots. Their bite is incredibly painful and will cause an itchy, raised area on your skin to erupt followed by an even more painful pus-filled blister.
These are small mites that burrow deep into the skin and cause their host intense itching and discomfort. They usually spread by close contact with an infected person or by sharing sheets, towels, clothes and other personal items with a person infected with scabies. It may take weeks after scabies mites burrow into your skin before you experience any itching, rashes, blisters, and sores. The itching mostly occurs between fingers, elbows, armpits, waistline, buttocks and it gets worse during the night.
e) Bedbug Bites
Bedbugs are reddish brown insects that are less than a millimeter in size. They are mostly found in bedding, old furniture, and clutter around the house. Most of the times, the reaction to a bedbug bite is mild; usually in the form of small, itchy red bumps on the arms and legs.
f) Bees, Wasps, Hornets And Yellow Jacket Stings
All the above insects carry some very painful stingers with a little venom to boot. Typical reactions to these stings include pain, swelling, redness, and numbness of the affected site. However, multiple stings could cause severe and fatal reactions in people who are allergic to the insects.
g) Poisonous Black Widow Spider Bites
We’ve all heard how these small, shiny, globular spiders treat their men after mating. So it’s no surprise that it’s the female species alone that bites humans. Most of these widows are found in Southern US, but they have managed to spread out through the entire US. A Black Widow’s bite is indicated by two small punctures followed by severe symptoms. These symptoms usually start about 20 minutes to an hour after the bite and include pain, cramps, spasms, tremors, abdominal pain, and even a rise in blood pressure.
Fortunately for us, there are cures and remedies for all the different types of insects and bug bites out there.
Bug Bites Treatment And Cures
As bad as your bug bite might be, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The majority of these bites are easy to treat right at home, especially if your reaction was mild. Sometimes the treatment is as easy as applying an ice pack to the inflamed area to reduce pain and swelling. However, other bites will require a trip to the pharmacists or even a doctor to combat the ill effects and possibly save your life. Let’s look at the wide range of bug bite cures available.
1) Soap and Water
The first treatment should always start by using soap and water to wash out the affected area. Generally, a bar of mild soap and warm water should help relieve a few symptoms of the bite. If you are experiencing any itching, work the lather into your hands, spread it over the affected area and allow the soap lather to dry. Washing the affected bite with soap can help alleviate itchiness and prevent any risk of infection from the insect’s saliva or venom. We’ll get into some more home remedies later on.
- Cheap and convenient
- Relieves itchy bites
- Cleans out affected area and protects against infection
- Does not really do anything for allergies or venom
2) Ice Pack
There are very few ailments on this planet that can’t be solved by a good ice pack. If you’re starting to swell up after an insect bite, it helps if you place a pack of frozen peas, steak, or just a cloth with ice on the swollen area. A few minutes of the ice treatment ought to bring down the swelling by reducing blood flow.
- Readily available
- Great for facial swelling
- May not be as effective as some of the other remedies on this list
3) Steroidal Anti-Itch Creams
Over the counter creams that have hydrocortisone or cortisone, such as Cortaid can really work wonders when it comes to reducing itching and inflammation. Fortunately, you can get a hydrocortisone cream from any pharmacy, chemist or drug store near you. If your reaction to the bug bite was very severe, then it’s best to have a doctor prescribe a stronger corticosteroid cream for you. These creams can soothe inflammation and cool any itching skin as a result of insect bites and stings.
- Cooling effect on inflamed skin
- Prevents itching
- Easy to source
- Wrongful application could have dire consequences
- Could have side effects if used for longer than a few days
Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine or Benadryl can help control severe allergic reactions from bug bites such as swelling or rashes. But like all other drugs, you have to follow the instructions on the package to get the dose right. In cases where the victim may not be able to swallow oral antihistamines, there are alternatives such as OTC antihistamine cream and others that come in hypodermic needles for emergency administering.
- Quick relief of allergic reactions
- Affordable and available in numerous forms
- Effective over an array of insect bites and stings
- Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness; so don’t operate machinery or drive after taking them
If you’ve ever been bitten by a Black Widow, Yellow Jacket or even poisonous snake, then you know that there are certain levels of pain that can’t be negotiated with. If your insect bite is causing you severe pain and discomfort, some OTC, anti-inflammatory, analgesic medicines (although I would not recommend taking them) such as aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen can really help offer relief for your pain.
- Effectively kills pain from bites and stings
- Also reduces hormones that trigger fever
- Available in chemists near you
- Might not be suitable for certain people and children
6) Essential Oils
Ah yes; Mother Nature’s very own be-all, end-all solution to pretty much every ailment. As vital as the name sounds, essential oils work magic for our bodies; both inside and out. You may already know a few esensh oils (a typo, but that’s what the cool kids are calling them), from popular applications such as in diffusers and air purifiers. But what you didn’t know is that essential oils such as lavender, tea tree and coconut oils are ripe with properties that help alleviate itching, swelling, pain, and overall inflammation. Especially tea tree oil has antibacterial properties that keeps infections from incessant scratching at bay.
- Instantly soothes inflamed and itchy skin
- Unmatched healing and anti-infection properties
- Zero possibility of overuse
- No side effects
- Pleasant smell
- Wide range of oils to choose from
- As always, severe allergic reactions to bug bites still require a doctor
7 Best Essential Oils For Bug Bites?
In this segment, I’ll start of by listing off some of the best essential oils for bug bites and then follow up with some great recipes and mixtures that you could make right at home. But first, what are the top essential oils and what makes them worthy of treating insect bites?
1. Lavender Oil
There’s a good reason why pretty much every essential oil collector on the planet has a bottle or two of this stuff. Hands up for those who have tried Bulgarian Lavender, from the world’s best lavender plant?
Lavender oil is quite the powerful substance and is an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiviral, bactericide, calming, nerving, cicatrizing sedative. Hehe, what does this all mean. In English, this basically means a lot of relief and help for stings and bites. Lavender does not really calm the skin itself, but rather works on the nerves in general to ease pain and inflammation.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is another staple that any collector worth their salt should always have at hand. This wonder-oil acts as an antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, cicatrizant, immunostimulant, expectorant, fungicide stimulant, sudorific and insecticide. Without all the fancy jargon, tea tree oil basically cleans out any puncture or scratch wounds effectively while helping alleviate stinging, itching, scratching and inflammation.
3. Chamomile Oil
Widely known as one of the most highly effective remedies for bug and insect bites, chamomile oil has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, bactericidal, carminative, febrifuge, vulnerary and sedative compounds that can address the immediate pain and inflammation of the bite. This includes protecting you from incessant itching as well as any other topical infections.
4. Melissa Oil
Also known as lemon balm, Melissa oil has a calming, relaxing and uplifting effect on the body. This is all thanks to its antibacterial, antiviral, carminative, emmenagogue, nervine, sedative, tonic and antispasmodic. properties that make it quite the effective treatment for scrapes, cuts, stings and bites.
5. Eucalyptus Oil
Boasting of antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral antispasmodic, cicatrizant, diuretic, insecticide, and detoxifying abilities, eucalyptus oil is without question one of the best essential oils on earth for bugs and insect bites. Eucalyptus contains outstanding qualities that protect the affected area from becoming infected.
6. Basil Oil
Did you know that it’s the incessant itching of a bug bite that makes it so difficult for them to heal? Even while deep asleep, this inflammation can cause you to keep on scratching. Applying basil essential oils reduces the urge to scratch; making it one heck of a helpful night time remedy. Basil also has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe hotspots and relax irritated skin.
7. Thyme Oil
Thyme oils actively assist in keeping bite wounds, cuts, sores and lesions super clean and infection free. By killing off any harmful bacteria, thyme essential oils ensure that there’s no chance of developing an infection. The active ingredient in this highly popular oil is thymol; which is able to defend against pathogens and other infections, while at the same time stimulating healing activities after damage from bug bites. Did you know that thyme oil is one of the best oils for sinus infections.
3 Essential Oils Recipes For Different Bug Bites
If you have some the above essential oils at home and have been bitten or stung by an insect, it really helps if you can identify the insect for more accurate treatment. I’ve compiled a list of popular recipes catered for specific types of bug bites. Shall we begin?
1. Recipe for Bee, Hornet and Wasp Stings
When dealing with a sting from any of the above insects, the first step should always be to remove the stinger from your skin if your attacker left it behind. To avoid squeezing the venom sac any further, make sure you use a pair of tweezers to remove the stinger. Once removed, proceed to make any of the following recipes.
a) Ice-cold compress
Apply an ice cold compress on the affected area saturated with the following mixture:
- 1 tsp of baking soda to nullify the acidity and venom
- 5 drops tea tree or chamomile in 1 tsp aloe vera gel
Apply frequently until the inflation and swelling subsides.
b) DIY Sting Paste
To make this life-saving paste, you will need the following
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 2 drops chamomile
- 3 drops lavender
- Distilled water
Mix well in a non-reactive bowl and dab on affected area until it heals.
2. Recipe for Mites, Ticks, Fleas and Small Insect Bites
Vinegar Cotton Ball Press
This ball press allows you to quickly clean out the affected area in a safe and hygienic manner. To make a vinegar cotton ball, you will need the following:
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 5 drops eucalyptus oil
- Cotton ball
Combine the eucalyptus essential oil with vinegar in a non-reactive bowl and mix thoroughly. Soak your cotton ball in and dab it on the affected area regularly.
3. Recipes for Bedbugs, Gnats and Spider Bites
With most of these insects, you have to worry about the risk of infection. Here’s what you need after washing the affected area:
- 2 drops eucalyptus
- 4 drops thyme
- 3 drops tea tree oil
- 1/2-ounce apple cider vinegar
Add the above essential oils to the apple cider vinegar (ACV) and apply the mixture to the affected area until it clears up. Using this remedy in conjunction with an insect repellent will help keep some insects at bay.
5 Best Home Remedies For Bug Bites
As promised, we’ll be having a look at some remedies that you can make right in the comfort of your home. Apart from the aforementioned essential oil remedies, here are a few clever remedies that you can use in the event of an insect bite.
If you do not mind rolling around in a bit of stickiness, then you’ll love doing an impression of Winnie the Pooh. Honey is known for its anti-inflammatory properties that make itching a whole lot less tempting. Apply regular honey on the affected area until inflammation comes down.
2) Milk & Water
Here’s another popular technique that is used for more than one remedy. Mix equal parts water and milk and dab on affected area with a thin cloth. Milk neutralizes any acids or venom and prevents infections.
If you look at your tube of toothpaste, chances are that the paste has a peppermint flavor. When used in the affected area, this menthol ingredient creates a cooling sensation that reduces swelling and prevent itching.
4) Tea Bags
Much like a desiccant, tea bags draw fluid out of the stung or bitten area to reduce itching and keep inflammation at bay. They are great for stings which cause pus to build up since they help clean the stuff and prevent infection.
Did you know that one remedy for uncomfortable bug bites might just be sitting pretty in your kitchen cupboard? Thanks to certain anti-irritant compounds, oatmeal works wonders when it comes to relieving itching and swelling.
How To Prevent Bug Bites – 5 Handy Tips
You know what they say; prevention is always better than cure. In this case, this saying is literally the truth. I’ve seen people neglect a tiny bite only for it to escalate to a massive lesion in a matter of hours. Once you’re bitten, don’t take anything for granted or assume it’s going to be okay. But wouldn’t it be better if you could avoid getting bitten altogether? Well, now you can thanks to the following tips.
1. Cover your body
Imagine landing upon a buffet on an empty stomach, wouldn’t you rip the hell out of that food? Same goes for you; if you don’t want to be stung or bitten, then cover up your skin. Not only does this prevent blood-sucking insects from being attracted to your supple flesh, but it also minimizes the surface of contact for other harmful bugs. If you’re outdoors, wear a long sleeved, loose shirt with pants and socks.
2. Apply a repellent
If you don’t want to bother yourself with extra layers of clothing, then nothing works better than applying insect repellents. Whether you use DEET or one of our all natural essential oil insect repellents, the end result is the same; keeping insects and bugs as far away from your skin as possible.
3. Invest in a fan
Research shows that even the slightest breeze makes it very difficult for most flying insects to fly. So if you have a well-ventilated home with a constant breeze, it will be impossible even for mosquitoes to find their host.
4. Take a breather
Did you know that most biting insects actually use CO2 to identify other animals and food sources? So when your heart rate is high or your diet is made up of spicy foods, you are bound to have more carbon dioxide in your body. Try to relax and lose weight to remain invisible to most of these bugs.
If it’s not already a part of your diet, garlic could really help keep insects and bugs at bay. People in bug filled territories should consider eating a few cloves of garlic every day. As you sweat, the garlic odor sticks to sweat and helps repel certain insects, especially mosquitoes. Perhaps this is where the Vampire myth about garlic came from.
Always play nice – When you come across some bees, wasps or other bugs, always play nice and never swat at them. This will only infuriate them and cause them to send war hormones all over the place. Instead, slowly and calmly move away from their flight path or hive.
Keep off the grass – As peaceful and calm as a patch of grass may look, chances are that there are thousands of insects that call the outdoors home. Ticks are huge fans of shrubs and grass, especially tall grass. Try to use mowed paths or ensure your lawn is finely mowed.
Know basic first aid – If you live in areas with deadly insects, it helps if you know basic forms of first aid to help treat bites and stings. This will help you take action and possibly save a life before the medics get there.
Final Word: The Takeaway
There you have it; everything you need to know about bug bites all in one convenient place. My part is done, the rest is all up to you. As we’ve seen, it’s pretty much all but impossible to avoid bugs and insect bites. However, you can take all precautionary measures and have some remedies at hand in case the worst comes to the worst. With the knowledge on how to proceed after a bug bite, you can at least preserve both your life, limb, and sanity too.