Summer is just around the corner, and the bugs have already begun buzzing. Painful bee stings and itchy mosquito bites can be less bothersome with a couple of simple home remedies utilizing ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.
One old-fashioned way to soothe bee stings is to apply the cut surface of an onion to the spot. When we first heard about this remedy years ago, we thought it was just an old wives’ tale. A chat with Dr. Eric Block, then chair of chemistry at SUNY Albany, straightened us out. He is the world’s expert on the chemical makeup of onions, and he assured us that fresh-cut onions contain enzymes that break down prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, the body’s response to injury, cause pain and swelling, so heading them off at the pass makes for a more comfortable recovery.
Here is just one of many onion stories we have received over the years:
“My 14 month old son was stung 5 times on the arm. My sister-in-law rubbed a sliced onion over the inflamed area and right away the inflammation and swelling went away. All you could see were five dots where the wasp stung him and that was it! He was running and playing afterwards like nothing ever happened. We instantly called his doctor and were on the look out for an allergic reaction but thankfully everything ended well.” Tara
A modified approach utilizes Adolph’s meat tenderizer (or any other brand containing papain). Papain tenderizes meat by breaking down proteins. It can do the same for proteins in a bee or jellyfish sting and sidestep or reduce a painful reaction. Make a paste out of meat tenderizer and water or vinegar and get it on the sting as quickly as possible.
S.C. offers this experience:
“I have used meat tenderizer for various bites and stings for years, and have found it to be the only thing effective for fire ant bites. I use it as you describe, but I do try to massage it into the site of the bite. I apply it immediately after the bite, as it is less effective with long delays in application. I have taught this to my grandchildren and other children.”
Baking soda mixed with vinegar is another time-honored kitchen based remedy for a bee or wasp sting. It fizzes and bubbles as it relieves discomfort.
Wasps and bees aren’t the only flying creatures to menace a picnic or barbecue. You can make a mosquito repellent at home with one tablespoon citronella oil, two cups white vinegar, one cup water and one cup Avon Skin-So-Soft bath oil. Or, you can buy Skin So Soft Bug Guard with IR3535, a “biopesticide” that has been used in Europe for decades.
To stop itching, apply plain hot water, about 120 degrees F (uncomfortable but not burning) for several seconds. Apparently this overwhelms the nerve endings sending “itch” signals, and you get relief for hours. This simple remedy also works for mild poison ivy.
No hot water? Try crushing a few plantain leaves and rubbing them over the bite. This weed grows almost everywhere and has a reputation for easing itch.
People also tell us that Vicks VapoRub can banish itchy mosquito bites. And that’s not all it is good for. When toes go on display in sandals, it may be time to treat ugly nail fungus. Smearing Vicks around the affected nail twice a day has helped many people get rid of their fungus. Others prefer to soak their feet fifteen to thirty minutes a day in a soothing solution of one part vinegar to two parts water. This should help discourage athlete’s foot as well as toenail fungus.
Vinegar in water–one part vinegar to five parts water–is also a great treatment after swimming. Make sure the solution is tepid, then put a few drops in each ear to prevent swimmer’s ear.
For more details about these and other inexpensive common-sense remedies, you may want to check our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies (National Geographic). It can be found in your library or you can get a copy at this link. Quick & Handy Home Remedies is full of helpful hints, too.
Don’t let hot weather hazards ruin your summer. By learning how to use what you already have in your kitchen you can withstand warm weather woes.