How to calm the misery of those itchy bug bites using natural ingredients!

The meaning of that old saying is an unpleasant experience induces caution. Anyone who has been bitten and then experiences the itching that drives you crazy, as well as the swelling and pain associated with it, has good reason to be cautious.  


Do read my previous article To DEET or not to DEET, for advice on insect repellents. If, however, your defenses were breached or you went out without your protective layers and got bitten, there are natural remedies to consider.


Blood sucking insects have amazing methods to extract your blood. It is only the female mosquito that bites for blood, the males are harmless vegans. The female needs the protein from the blood to produce her eggs, and will track down victims through the smell of their CO2and sweat, often preferring a person with type O blood. When she lands, she injects the skin and pumps saliva with a type of protein which acts as an anticoagulant to liquefy the blood and stop it clotting. Ticks are stuck on their unwilling host, sometimes for days. The tick prepares the skin prior to injecting and digs a sword-like protrusion into the host, then latches on with backwards-facing spines to keep it locked in place. It then starts to feed. The curved teeth and spines that dig in deeply beneath the skin hold the tick, and as the feeding takes place, if infected, the tick can inject the spirochete bacteria that causes Lyme disease, or any other parasite in the tick. The transmissions are via the saliva, and signaled via chemical instructions and pheromones. The Lyme disease spirochetes live in the gut of the tick, waiting for an opportunity to transfer up through the saliva into another host, to spread. As well as Lyme disease, there are a list of diseases carried by ticks. (See the full list, along with the culprit carrier, listed on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/index.html)

It is very important to remove a tick correctly so that it does not get squashed and spit the contents of its gut into your bloodstream. 
https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/index.html

Apply alcohol to the bite area immediately. Keep the tick in a sealed container of alcohol to take to the health center and get the bite area checked. The classic sign of an infection after a tick bite is the bull’s eye red ring that appears around the bite area. This is actually rare, maybe 30% of cases, whether infected or not, have this rash. You may develop flu-like symptoms, a fever, headaches, nausea, muscle aches, and the actual bite spot feels warm to the touch. This can occur up to 30 days after the bite. The treatment is generally a course of antibiotics.

Pruritus, the medical term for severe itching, is the result of the reactions to the protein under the skin from the bite, not the actual bite of the mosquito. It makes most people itch and some people swell, redden and the area of the bite can get hot as it becomes inflamed. The swelling is from your body sending white blood cells to the “invader” substance, and causes the histamine reaction. The itching is the sign that your body is trying to protect itself. As much as it is tempting to scratch, this can lead to infections. The inflammation is your body trying to “cook” the invading substance out, to stop the infection. This type of reaction is most common in children, since they have not built up an immunity to bites. The longer the mosquito feeds the more proteins she pumps under your skin, and the greater the reaction.


Some natural remedies to have handy in case you do get bitten by a mosquito include:

 
  • Witch hazel - a soothing astringent liquid that heals, and shrinks the swelling as well as kills any bacteria.
  • Tea Tree oil - a disinfectant that will also bring down the swelling. It is very powerful and may need diluting since it can be quite drying.
  • Coconut oil - can be added to your Tea Tree oil, and is antibacterial on its own, and very soothing.
  • Lavender essential oil - another oil to add to the coconut oil, it can be used to stop bleeding and to heal since it is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. It will act as a repellent while healing.
  • White or black tea bags - dampened and applied to the bite can calm the area with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities.
  • Onion - raw onion can soothe bites. Great if you have nothing else handy.
  • Neem oil - good for taking the itch out of the bite and healing the area. It has the added advantage of repelling mosquitoes.
  • Oatmeal - oats contain avenanthramides, a powerful antioxidant, which can reduce the itch and take down the swelling. Grind up some oatmeal into a fine powder and make a paste to apply to the bite, or run a bath and add the powder for a soothing soak.
  • Chamomile tea or essential oil - damped a tea bag or dilute the essential oil and apply.
  • Basil essential oil - as above, dilute and apply. If you do not have access to the essential oil, you can crush a few basil leaves and apply the juice to the bite. The anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the swelling.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar and baking soda - make a paste and apply to the bite area. The soothing antioxidant cools and heals the area. Do not use if you have scratched at the bite to open up the skin - the ACV will sting and make things worse!

Some simple night time preparations to avoid mosquito bites while you sleep are:

 
  • Shower before bed - less body scent for the mosquito to find you while you sleep.
  • Sleep next to a fan or keep the ceiling fan running through the night - keeping the air moving blows away the pesky nocturnal bloodsuckers.
  • Keep the window closed or make sure the screens are intact.
  • Use a lavender, cinnamon or lemongrass spray around your bedroom - dilute the essential oil with spring water and spritz.
  • Use lavender pillows, sprigs and bags of loose lavender flowers around your bed.

Mosquitoes can transfer viruses and spread diseases, although generally in specific areas of risk, so make sure to check the risk levels in your state, and if you travel, verify the risk in the state or country you are visiting.

Other biting insects that bite and have a health impact are flies, midges, fleas, bed bugs and lice. All can have unpleasant bites that cause a histamine reaction, make you itch, and come up with red welt or bumps and some can carry diseases in certain parts of the US or other countries.

Sally Warren, PhD
Board Certified Traditional Naturopath
Metro Integrative
sallyW@metrointegrative.com 

 
 
 

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This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. The information in this article is for educational purposes only.