Q. I live in Florida where there are lots of fire ants. I garden, which means I periodically get bitten.

I have tried everything from Diprolene (a corticosteroid) to crushed walnut shells to immersion in a swimming pool without much success.

I recently tried benzoyl peroxide (10 percent). I did it as a controlled experiment, in that I had four bites and treated two of them. The next day, the two treated bites were much smaller and less itchy than the controls.

I applied the benzoyl peroxide within an hour of being bitten. I scraped off the top of the bite and rubbed the cream into the open bite and surrounding area.

I am a physician and Army Reservist. My theory is that this drug penetrates the skin well, so the peroxide can get to the toxins, oxidizing and neutralizing them.

A. Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient in over-the-counter acne products. Your experiment is fascinating and we hope others will test it and report back.

Bug bites are a challenge at this time of year. Over the last 35 years we have collected lots of simple treatments, from baking soda and vinegar to raw onion and toothpaste, in our book The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

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  1. Phil

    Yes to benzoyl peroxide. Got this odd bite while cleaning gutters in Sarasota, looked like a large fire ant bite but was not. Used a 30% strength B Peroxide cream by johnson johnson Worked great so far. Swelling went right down and it is drying up

    • Laurie T
      Dana Point, CA

      I use it for chigger bites. I learned about it from a post about removing the liquid from blisters without popping them. That procedure worked and was to use gauze and cover it overnight. I am trying it without the gauze now for chiggers. It works better the sooner you put it on. It bleaches your clothes so a cover or shield is often a good idea.

  2. PG

    We live in Texas and one day I got bit by a fire ant at my mother’s house. I went to look for something to put on it, it was very painful. All I could find was hemorrhoid cream. I applied that to my bite and the pain instantly went away, as well as the redness. I never had any itching.

  3. Joanne

    I live in Texas, and Vicks Vapor Rub takes the sting away immeidately when applied IMMEDIATELY. Also, I don’t get any of the blisters either.

  4. sylvia

    I have been gardening in South Carolina for over 30 years and where we have lots of insects of all kinds which seem to be attracted to me, especially mosquitos (sp)
    In my gardening kit I always carry a small tube of Camphor Phenique (the ointment) which I apply to bites from mosquitos, fire ants, wasps etc. and it takes away the pain immediately and the following day there is no residual pain in the site of the bite. We also have used Tiger Balm which is just as effective…it must be the camphor which works the magic. I hope that this will help others.

  5. MR

    I know that a lot of people like to make a little paste with activated charcoal powder to apply to insect stings, as it will draw out the poison. Personally, I like to chew a plantain leaf a little bit and apply the “green glob” to the sting, because there’s almost always some plantain growing nearby, and I’ve had such great results with it drawing out the poison. I’ve had it draw out infection, too. I usually use a little first aid tape to hold it down, maybe 20-30 minutes for a sting, or several hours for a small infected area.

  6. Thanks


  7. CM

    Organic apple cider vinegar works for me….I live in FL too and I usually just have to apply it once with a cotton ball and it takes away the itch for good.

  8. JVH

    Vicks Vap-o-Rub applied immediately to Fire Ant stings soothes quickly and reduces the inflammation and itching the next day.

  9. Christel

    The best way to control insects of any kind in the garden and lawn is to contract a professional spray service to fertilize and spray 3 times a year. It’s not expensive and the results are well worth it.

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