Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

How to treat bug bites

Itching, discomfort, pain and swelling from bug bites takes the fun out of outdoor activities. Know safe ways to relieve symptoms and prevent infections.

While you’re taking a bite out of summer fun, are bugs taking a bite out of you? Pesky insects can ruin seasonal outdoor activities, and beyond the irritating itching of the bites, individuals with allergic reactions can sometimes face real danger. Knowing how to treat a bug bite will reduce discomfort and keep away painful swelling.

Play defense

The best defense against the discomfort of bug bites is to prevent them! Try taking Vitamin B1. Between 25 to 50 milligrams is a safe adult dosage. This vitamin produces an odor on the skin that is undetectable to humans but helps ward off mosquitoes. Another trick: put a Bounce dryer sheet in your pocket. These sheets contain linalool, a plant compound that’s toxic to bugs. Also, use traditional and natural eco-friendly repellents to fight off insects, and apply it to the areas that bugs tend to go for: ankles, wrists and neck. Citronella candles and clip-on repellent devices can also help. If you’re wearing an insect repellent, remember that you will need to reapply it occasionally. If you’re perspiring or getting wet, the effects of the repellent can be washed away.


In certain situations, an insect bite will need medical treatment by a doctor. Bites on the ear can be tricky, since the cartilage in the ear is more susceptible to infection. Soak the bite with warm water regularly and see your physician at the first sign of infection. You may need antibiotics to zap the trouble.

Bites from a Brown Recluse Spider can form a large purple irregularly-shaped blister with a red ring. Over a few days the blister may open to reveal an ulcerated area. If not treated, this ulcerated area will enlarge and become infected.

Bites from a Black Widow Spider have a fatality rate of 5 percent. Within an hour of the bite, generalized symptoms occur: muscle cramps or painful muscle spasms, loss of sensation or tingling, headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting or difficulty swallowing. Go to an emergency room or call 911 for immediate treatment. It’s helpful in situations with a spider bite if you can bring the spider with you when you seek treatment.

For other bug bites, treat the itching with Benadryl by mouth, always following dosing instructions carefully. There are a variety of itch-reducing products available over-the-counter that can be applied directly to the bite. Calamine lotion is usually very effective, but all topicals may sting on a bite that has been scratched open. Apply a cold cloth to reduce the sting. To prevent infection, wash the site with warm, soapy water and dab with some diluted hydrogen peroxide, then rinse it off after a couple of minutes. You can also use an antibiotic ointment. Ice applied to a spider bite will relieve some of the pain and swelling. If a bite becomes infected, wash with warm, soapy water and apply a hot washcloth to the area for 10 minutes. Use the hydrogen peroxide or antibiotic ointment following the hot compress. It could take a day or two for treatment to improve the infection. If you don’t see any improvement by then, go to the doctor for treatment.

More helpful tips

How to treat insect bites

Lyme Disease risk map

Lyme Disease

Leave a Comment

Comments are closed.