Published on August 09, 2021

Person with bug bite

Preventing and Treating Bug Bites

With more time spent outdoors during summer, many of us will be trying to keep the bugs at bay.

When a bug bites your skin, your body will typically have a mild allergic reaction to the venom that is inserted into your skin during the bite. The allergic reaction causes the swelling, redness and itchiness to occur,” explains Amra Nasir, MD, Medical Director with Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care. While bug bites are more of an annoyance due to the itchiness, there are ways to help keep the itch at bay and ways to help prevent getting bitten. Here’s what you can do for a bug-free summer.

Prevent Bug Bites

The best way to keep yourself from being bitten is to be proactive with prevention. Protect yourself from mosquitos and other bugs by:

  • Using insect repellent with active ingredient Deet or Picaridin
  • Wear hats and clothes that cover any exposed areas such as your arms and legs
  • Avoid wearing perfume and scented lotion outside
  • Using citronella candles
  • Keep food and drinks covered
  • Avoid floral patterns and wear neutral colors

By taking these steps before and while you’re outside, you’re less likely to come away covered in bites.

Treating Bites

If you couldn’t keep the bugs away, there are a few ways you can alleviate any pain, itching and swelling. Remedies to treat bug bites include:

Oatmeal paste or bath

With only a few bites, mix equal parts of oatmeal and water to make a paste. Hold it onto the bug bite with a washcloth for ten minutes. For bites all over, sprinkle a cup of oatmeal into a bath filled with warm water and soak for 20 minutes. This helps to relieve the itching and swelling caused by the bite.


Placing a cold pack or bag of ice wrapped in a washcloth on a bite can help relieve itching or swelling caused by the bite. Dr. Nasir says, “don’t leave the ice on longer than twenty minutes and never put direct ice on your skin for more than five minutes at a time.”

Baking soda

Baking soda also has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can help give relief to a bug bite. Make a baking soda paste by mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with a little water and apply it to the area for ten minutes.

Hydrocortisone cream

Using hydrocortisone cream helps to alleviate the itch associated with a bug bite. Place a dab of cream on each bite to combat the itch.

What do to if the bite is more than just annoyance

Sometimes a bug bite can be more than annoying. Watch for these signs and symptoms that may mean you need to talk with your doctor.

  • Increased redness or warmth
  • Severe pain or pus
  • Swelling beyond the area of the bite
  • Swelling in face, eyes, lips, tongue or throat
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

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