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Home Remedies for Bug Bites and Stings

Q. We’re getting ready to visit my sister in New Hampshire. The last time we visited, the mosquitoes ate us alive. I hate using bug repellent but we need something. Didn’t you have a home remedy to keep insects away? And what works to relieve itching?

I would also like to know what to do for bee stings. I have mislaid the column you wrote about it. We have tried Worcestershire sauce but it runs off too fast and doesn’t provide any relief. Did I remember it wrong?

A. We’re afraid your memory played tricks on you. Worcestershire sauce may be tasty, but as far as we know it will not help relieve the pain of a sting. Meat tenderizer, on the other hand, is reputed to be effective, especially when made into a paste with a little vinegar. The ingredient to look for in meat tenderizer is papain, an enzyme that breaks down proteins.

As for mosquitoes, there is no doubt that DEET is effective. Other repellents with compounds like picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil also work.

But if you prefer home remedies, a reader recommended the following: mix 1 tablespoon citronella oil, 2 cups white vinegar, 1 cup water and 1 cup Avon Skin-So-Soft bath oil.

Avon never intended its bath oil as an insect repellent, but so many people were using it for this purpose the company came out with a separate product. Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus is designed to discourage bugs.

To calm itching, the easiest technique is to apply hot water (slightly uncomfortable but not so hot as to burn). A second or two should relieve discomfort for several hours.
We are sending you our Guide to Home Remedies, in which we discuss approaches to stings, bites, itches, warts and more.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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