DIY bug bite and sunburn remedies for summer


Inevitably this summer, someone will encounter a bee in the wading pool, forget to re-apply sunscreen, or tramp through the wrong part of the forest.

We all know to have ice, over-the-counter pain relievers, lotions and antihistamines ready. But a treasure trove of quick-acting treatment options is right in the kitchen.

By Ashley Talmadge


Bee, wasp and hornet stings

A bee stings once, but leaves its stinger behind. Remove the stinger as quickly as possible. Wasps and hornets do not leave their stingers behind and may sting multiple times, so leave the area before starting treatment.

Make a thick paste using water and one of the following ingredients. Apply directly to the wound and leave on for about 20 minutes.

  • Baking soda
  • Meat tenderizer (contains papain to break down proteins in the venom)
  • Charcoal (the activated form is cleanest, but charcoal from a campfire can be used in a pinch)
  • Honey (unpasteurized contains antibacterial agents)
  • Dirt/mud
  • Toothpaste (undiluted)

Or try one of these plant-based items:

  • Sliced onion
  • Papaya (a natural source of the papain found in meat tenderizer)
  • Plantain (a common backyard weed) ground into a poultice

Itchy bug bites

Many of the remedies used for stings may also be used to treat the itchy bites of insects such as mosquitoes, horse flies and black flies. Additional remedies for itching include:

  • Oatmeal bath
  • Aloe cream (refrigerated for better itch relief)
  • Green tea bag, dampened and refrigerated
  • Tea tree oil, witch hazel or alcohol (including hand sanitizer)
  • Basil, crushed (repels mosquitoes and contains anesthetic properties)
  • Mouthwash with menthol (cools the bite site)




A cool bath often is the best way to relieve sunburned skin. Many believe in the addition of oatmeal, baking soda, or vinegar as a soothing agent. After a soak, try one of these home remedies:

  • Aloe (best straight from the plant, but pre-made lotions are helpful)
  • Shaving cream
  • Milk or yogurt
  • Potatoes (pulverized to a liquid, dried on the skin, and showered off)
  • Cornstarch (dusted on non-blistered areas irritated by clothing straps or bands)



Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac

It is essential to wash well with soap and water to remove any oily residue from the skin. After that, a cooling bath can work wonders. Bath additives like oatmeal and baking soda work well. Try Epsom salts, buttermilk or mint tea as soothing additions. After dabbing the rash dry, try applying one of the following to dry the outbreak and speed healing:

  • Oatmeal, baking soda or vinegar paste
  • Watermelon rind
  • Cucumber slices
  • Lemon slices
  • Banana peel



How to make an oatmeal bath

  • Measure about a cup of unflavored oats per bathtub of water. Instant, quick-cooking and old fashioned oats all work well.
  • Grind the oats to a fine powder, using a coffee grinder or food processor on the "high" setting.
  • Test your powder by adding a spoonful to a cup of warm water. It should make the water look "milky" and feel "silky." If there's a lot of sediment, you need to grind it more.
  • Pour the ground oatmeal into running tepid bath water, stirring as you go.
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