It’s finally warm enough to lounge around outside and do outdoor activities, but the bugs just won’t leave you alone and now you just feel irritable from all the itching. Don’t worry, here are 4 tips to get the itching to stop and for those bites to go away fast. Remember, the main treatment is to prevent itching.
4 Tips to Ease Your Itch and Rash Pain
1. Don’t scratch
I know, your mother told you all the time not to scratch that itch, but what is one to do? It itches! But, mom was right, the more you itch, the greater the chances are that you will make a temporary problem much worse by leading the bite towards infection. The abrasions on the skin from chronic scratching removes the protective layer of the skin, leaving the inner tissues open to bacteria and fungi to set up house.
2. Use ice
The minute you know you have been bitten head for the ice bucket! It may be a short-lived approach, but it will prevent the immediate swelling and itching. It may also numb the skin preventing an inflammatory response. Put an ice cube in a cloth or grab an ice pack and hold it over the bite for a short while.
3. Use natural antihistamines
Oftentimes a bug bite will cause an allergic reaction, some more severe than others. Allergies are the body’s way of protecting itself from a foreign substance, most commonly dust, pollen or insect bites. The body responds by releasing a substance called “histamine”. Histamine is responsible for the symptoms of allergies such as sneezing, runny nose and eyes and itching. There are 4 natural antihistamines that work well for mild cases of allergic reactions.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C can be used as an antihistamine. The average recommendation is about 2 grams per day. You can also add a healthy dose of citrus fruits and high citrus vegetables to your diet to boost your vitamin C levels. Vitamin C is found in vegetables and fruits, but oxidizes quickly when exposed to air, making it less effective. Cooking also destroys vitamin C, which is why juice must have it added back after pasteurization.
- Bromelain: An enzyme from the pineapple fruit, bromelain, prevents the swelling and pain associated with those itchy bites. Orally, a dose of 400-500 mg three times a day should help control allergic symptoms.
- Stinging nettles: Studies show a dose of 300 mg/day works well to squash allergic symptoms. In one study, 58% of the participants found relief with stinging nettles.
- Quercetin: Quercetin is an antioxidant found naturally in onions, garlic and apples. A common dose during allergy season is 250 – 600 mg three times daily. Side effects may include nausea and headache.
4. Try natural pain killers and topical ointments
Sometimes a bug bite can really hurt! If one nails you good and the pain is bothersome, you can try a few natural remedies to ease the discomfort.
- Willow bark: Willow bark, a natural form of salicin– is the same active ingredient found in aspirin. A dose of 120 mg of salicin equivalent would be adequate for mild pain and 240 mg for more minor pain. White willow has been used for pain and inflammation since 400 B.C. People were advised to chew on the willow tree bark and leaves to relieve their aches, pain and fevers. Now, it is used in OTC products. But the natural bark is still a favorite for those who prefer all-natural solutions. Just remember that long-term use can still wreak havoc on your kidneys. So use it sparingly.
- Capsaicin: Spicing up your diet might lower overall pain since cayenne pepper and hot foods like wasabi (a type of horseradish) have been shown to alleviate pain including post-operative pain. Topical capsaicin (from cayenne pepper), for example, is used pharmacologically on diabetic neuropathy of the foot.
- Menthol and camphor: Menthol and camphor are natural topical analgesics so effective that the FDA has it listed on their list of approved active ingredients. Creams, ointments, and oils made with the ingredients can soothe dry, patchy, itchy, raised skin right at the spot of the discomfort not to mention its ability to soothe your muscle and joint pain. Menthol has a cooling effect to the skin and camphor has a warming effect. Combined or used alone topically, they both distract the signals to the brain that screams “pain!” Just remember, camphor or menthol should never be taken by mouth.
- Honey: Honey has been used for its medicinal qualities for centuries. Topically, it can inhibit the growth of some bacterial strains, and it has been shown to dramatically reduce itching and further reduces irritation of the affected skin site.
- Aloe gel: Aloe has been used in various skin conditions since the mid-1930’s when it was used to treat radiation dermatitis. The plant itself is 95% water and is lush with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, sugars, amino acids and even salicylic acids. When applied topically, it can soothe itchy skin and provide phenomenal hydration while protecting the skin from infection with bacteria and viruses.
- CBDMEDIC™ Itch and Rash Ointment: The active ingredients in this pain and itch relieving ointment are lidocaine and allantoin. Lidocaine is a non-prescription topical ingredient that promotes a numbing sensation and thus, a loss of pain. It is great on bites and other minor skin irritations that are annoying or sore. Allantoin comes from the comfrey plant and is used in a variety of cosmetic products for its moisturizing, soothing skin effects. Both active ingredients come in a base of peppermint, tea tree oils, and beeswax.
When to Seek Immediate Clinical Attention
Most bites are not serious and can be taken care of at home by cleaning the area and applying the appropriate topical ointment. However, not all bites can be taken so lightly. Bites should be evaluated by the type of insect or animal, the location, size, and symptoms associated with the bite and proper care sought at an urgent care center or your primary care physician.
Examples of worrisome bites
- Venomous: Typically, these are from spiders. There are two quite popular poisonous spiders to be on the lookout for, the black widow and the brown recluse. Black widows are usually plump, black with a red hourglass on their body. Symptoms are quite serious including nausea, chills, fever, headaches, sweating, and weakness. Medical attention must be sought immediately.
- Location: Bites that occur near the eyes, on or inside the mouth, or in the throat are usually more serious and any side effects from the bite could be more complicated. One’s eyes or throat could swell shut therefore cutting off the airway or preventing sight. These bites also should be professionally examined.
- Symptoms that do not get better after a few days: This could mean the possibility of a secondary infection or a poisonous bite.
- Size: Any bite that is 10 cm or larger should be seen by a professional.
Troublesome rashes can easily resemble bug bites, so watch out. Rashes can come in many forms: scaly, dry, itchy, red, bumpy, painful, and/or swelling. Some go away shortly, while others seem to last a lifetime. Some may not seem worrisome and appear as though they can be treated easily with an over-the-counter solution, but dermatologists have proven this isn’t always the case. Here are some signs that indicate whether you may need additional clinical attention:
- In addition to the rash or bump, you have a fever or trouble breathing.
- The rash or bump blisters.
- The rash or bump is painful and/or infected.
- The rash is all over your body.
- The rash is sudden and spreads quickly.
If you have any of these symptoms, see a dermatologist or go to the emergency room. While it may seem easy to tend to these symptoms alone, worrisome rashes may indicate the presence of another health issue. Some examples would include:
- Staph infections: Caused by staphylococcus bacteria, staph infections are infections passed on from person to person through contact with contaminated surfaces. Staph can be deadly if left untreated lt originates as an irritated cut with yellow crusting, but can become a boil or appear as an infected rash. It can first appear as a pimple or bug bite but quickly spreads if you don’t act fast.
- Allergic Reactions: Allergic reactions occur when the skin comes into contact with an allergen. They can appear as red and itchy with a possibility of blisters or bumps. If you have trouble breathing, you’ll need medical attention immediately. If you have a serious allergy, remember to carry an EpiPen with you at all times.
It is important to seek proper treatment in order to properly prevent further health complications. Being aware of how to take care of bites and rashes along with knowing when to seek clinical attention is crucial to making the time you spend outside this summer safe and worry-free. Enjoy the summer knowing you can ease your itching and irritation, should it arise.