I'm a romantic at heart, and so at the risk of facing commenter-wrath, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it: The season's first mosquito bite isn't such a bad thing. It's kind of like earning your summertime stripes, don't you think?
No? Well, romantic notions about pesky insects aside, I admit that by this time of summer, the first bite has turned into 40 and I'm ready for a bit of relief.
In case you haven't gotten around to whipping up a batch of DIY: Bug Repellent Balm—and we suggest you do—we present you with some natural remedies for mosquito bites that might have you putting away that chalky pink Calamine lotion forever.
Photographs by Erin Boyle.
Above: My arsenal of natural mosquito-bite remedies. We're sharing seven of our favorite remedies here, but if you've had good luck with others, please let us know in the comments section below.
1. Ice cubes: An ice cube or cold pack can be a surprisingly effective remedy for mosquito bites. The ice numbs the area and helps control swelling. Wrap cubes in a towel and press against bites for 10 minutes (or for as long as you can tolerate).
2. Tea bags: Natural tannins in tea act as an astringent, drawing toxins out of the skin and helping to lessen your discomfort. Press a used tea bag against your bites until the itching subsides.
3. Tea Tree Essential Oil: Antiseptic properties in tea tree oil help it treat a variety of skin-related symptoms, including mosquito bites. Dab a little essential oil onto a cotton swab and rub it on the affected area. Lavender and peppermint oils also work well. A caveat: Some people are sensitive to having essential oils applied directly to the skin. If that's the case for you, try diluting the oil or choose a different remedy. (You can buy a 1-oz bottle of Tea Tree Oil from iHerb.com for $6.87.)
4. Baking Soda Paste: Add a few drops of water to some baking soda, mix it into a paste, apply it directly onto bug bites, and allow to dry. The alkalinity of baking soda can help neutralize the pH of an infected area and reduce itching.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar: In the same way that baking soda can help neutralize a bug bite, a swab of apple cider vinegar (or a few cupfuls diluted in a bath) can help balance the pH of an infected area. Apple cider vinegar is somewhat less acidic than other vinegars and a good choice for restoring natural pH.
6. Aloe Vera: Often associated with relieving painful sunburns, aloe vera is also helpful for mosquito bites. Look for fresh aloe vera in the produce aisle, or buy gel at the pharmacy. If you go the fresh route, peel away the tough skin from the inner gel with a sharp knife. You can then pulverize the gel or just rub it on any offending bites. (A 6-oz bottle of Aloe Vera Gel is $5.76 from iHerb.com.)
7. Peppermint Poultice: Mash peppermint leaves into a paste and apply it to especially bothersome bites for a cooling sensation. If you're an adept forager, you can also make a soothing poultice from jewelweed, plantain, or chickweed. And if you don't happen to have a mortar and pestle handy, you can just chew the herbs to mash them—bonus points for using your very Gardenista wilderness survival skills.
Don't go, we've got more summer bug stories:
Enamored of fireflies? Here's how to protect them.
Are moths feasting on your winter wools? See DIY Modern Mothballs (No Chemicals Included).
Updated from a post published July 25, 2013.