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Bug Bites That Itch and Swell

21 Home Remedies for Bug Bites That Itch and Swell


When a mosquito or another insect bites, it’s not just the immediate sting that bothers you, but often, the itching and swelling that follows can be even more uncomfortable. 

Thankfully, there are a range of home remedies readily available that can help alleviate these symptoms. From natural plant extracts to common household goods, relief could be closer than you think. 

Here we’ll talk about an array of methods to soothe those pesky bug bites.

1. Toothpaste

The menthol in toothpaste is known to create a cooling sensation on the skin, which can help distract you from the itch. Meanwhile, the astringent qualities of the toothpaste can help reduce swelling. 

Dab a small amount of white toothpaste (avoid gel-based toothpastes) onto the bite and let it dry. Remove it with warm water after about 10 minutes. Note that this is a temporary measure and may not suit everyone, especially if you have sensitive skin.

2. Ice Pack

An ice pack or cold compress can provide quick relief by numbing the area and reducing inflammation. The cold temperature restricts blood flow to the bite, which can help decrease swelling and the severity of the reaction. 

Wrap some ice in a towel or cloth—never apply it directly to your skin, as this can cause ice burn—and hold it on the bite for intervals of 10 minutes.

3. Heat

Applying localized heat to a bug bite may provide relief from itching. The heat can increase local blood flow, helping to dissipate the chemicals causing the itch and inflammation. 

You can do this by soaking a cloth in hot water, wringing it out, and pressing it against the bite for a few minutes.

Alternatively, you can take a hot shower or bath, allowing the water to flow over the bites. Be cautious to avoid burning your skin—ensure the heat is comfortable and not scalding.

4. Honey

Honey is recognized for its antibacterial properties and its ability to help in wound healing. Dab a small amount of raw, unprocessed honey straight onto the bug bite. Honey can reduce inflammation and prevent infection, especially if the bite has been scratched open. 

Because of its sticky nature, it’s best to cover the honey-treated area with a bandage to avoid mess.

5. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be an effective immediate remedy for bug bites as it has a cooling effect that can provide quick relief from itching. Its antiseptic properties can also help prevent infection.

Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball and gently dab it on the bite. Be cautious, as repeated use can dry out the skin.

6. Garlic

Garlic has natural anti-inflammatory properties, and some people find it useful for reducing the symptoms of bug bites. However, it should be used with caution due to its potential to irritate the skin. 

You can mince or crush a clove and mix it with a small amount of unscented moisturizer or coconut oil, and apply it sparingly to the affected area. Be sure to wash it off thoroughly after a few minutes.

7. Onion

Onions contain compounds like quercetin, which can help reduce itchiness and inflammation when applied to bug bites. 

Slice a fresh onion and place a piece on the bite for several minutes. The onion’s natural juices may help soothe the bite. After removing the onion, wash the area to eliminate the strong smell.

8. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is renowned for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent choice for treating itchy and swollen bug bites. 

The plant contains compounds like aloin and barbaloin which help reduce inflammation and provide a cooling sensation when applied to the skin. 

You can simply slice open a fresh aloe vera leaf and apply the gel directly to the bitten area. Alternatively, you can purchase pure aloe vera gel from health stores.

9. Oatmeal

Oatmeal isn’t just a healthy breakfast choice—it can also calm inflamed skin. This remedy works due to the presence of avenanthramides, which are anti-inflammatory compounds found in oats. 

For bug bites, an oatmeal bath can work wonders: grind a cup of oatmeal into a fine powder, then mix it into a lukewarm bath and soak for 15-20 minutes.

If the bites are localized, you can create an oatmeal paste by mixing equal parts water and oatmeal, then apply it directly to the bites for 10 minutes before rinsing off.

10. Baking Soda

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, can counteract the acidity and inflammation that might be caused by bug bites. 

It is simple to use; just mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a few drops of water to create a paste, then apply it to the bitten skin. Leave it on for about 10 minutes before rinsing it off. Baking soda can help neutralize the pH and reduce itchiness and swelling.

11. Essential Oils

Various essential oils have properties that can be beneficial for treating bug bites. For example, tea tree oil has both anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, which can help reduce swelling and prevent infection. 

Lavender oil, known for its calming effect, can provide pain relief and mild anti-inflammatory benefits. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba oil, before applying them to the skin to prevent irritation. Apply the mixture directly to the bug bite for relief.

12. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is a natural astringent that can help to ease inflammation and soothe itching resulting from bug bites. It works by tightening the skin and reducing irritation. 

To apply witch hazel, soak a cotton ball or pad with the liquid and dab it on the bug area. Repeat the application as necessary for continued relief.

13. Basil

Basil leaves contain compounds like camphor and thymol, which are known to relieve itching. 

You can crush fresh leaves and apply them directly to the bite, or brew a tea from the leaves, allow it to cool, and then use a cloth to apply it to the affected area. Basil’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce swelling and soothe discomfort.

14. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has several health benefits, including the ability to soothe skin irritation. Its natural acidity can help reduce itching and inflammation. 

You can dilute apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of water to prevent skin irritation. Soak a cotton ball in the solution and apply it to the bite for a few minutes. 

If you have multiple bites, you may add a cup of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath and soak for up to 15 minutes for all-over relief.

15. Teabags

Used tea bags, especially those from teas containing anti-inflammatory compounds like chamomile or green tea, can be applied to bug bites to help reduce swelling and provide relief from itching. 

The tannins in tea act as astringents, helping to draw toxins out of the skin. Cool a damp tea bag in the refrigerator and then place it over the bite for about 15 minutes.

16. Lemon or Lime Juice

The citric acid in lemon or lime juice is antibacterial and can reduce the risk of infection, which is helpful if you’ve been scratching. 

Dabbing a small amount of juice on the bite may help to relieve the itch. Do this with caution and never apply when going out into the sun, as these juices can make your skin photosensitive and may lead to a rash or sunburn.

17. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm possesses natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is used to soothe the skin and reduce the discomfort caused by bug bites. 

You can crush fresh leaves to release the oils and apply directly to the bite. Also, you can make a tea with dried lemon balm, allow it to cool, and then apply it to the skin with a cloth.

This can help to calm the inflammation and ease the itchiness associated with bug bites. 

18. Peppermint

Peppermint leaves and peppermint oil both can provide a cooling sensation due to the menthol content, which distracts from the itching. If using fresh leaves, crush them and apply directly to the skin. 

For peppermint oil, dilute it with a carrier oil before application. This remedy can provide immediate, albeit temporary, relief from the discomfort of bug bites.

19. Aspirin Paste

Aspirin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, can be made into a paste to help reduce swelling from bug bites.

Crush an aspirin tablet and mix it with a few drops of water to form a paste. Apply this to the bite for a short period before rinsing off. Do not use this remedy if you are allergic to aspirin.

20. Hydrocortisone 

Hydrocortisone cream can be bought over the counter and provides effective relief from swelling and itching. It works by reducing the body’s immune response to the bug bite. 

Put a small dab of hydrocortisone cream to the bite not more than two to three times a day. Be mindful to not use it on open wounds or for prolonged periods without consulting a healthcare professional.

21. Antihistamines

Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can be used to alleviate itching and swelling. These work by blocking the action of histamine, a substance in the body that causes allergic symptoms. 

You can take oral antihistamines or apply creams containing antihistamines directly to the bite. Read labels and follow usage directions, as some products can cause drowsiness.


Hope you can relieve bug bites with these Home remedies. However, everyone’s skin reacts differently to various substances, and what works for one person might not work for another. 

In addition, if you experience severe reactions to bug bites, such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or lips, or hives spreading across the body, you need to seek medical attention immediately, as this could be an indication of an allergic reaction.

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