Summers are many things. Beautiful, blissful, busy, sunny, yes. And in Vermont, they come with a side of bug bites. Mosquitoes the size of small birds lurk near my house (1 block from Lake Champlain), ready to strike as I move past. I am one of those bug-attracting people. As a child I went to the doctor once, covered head-to-toe in quarter-sized and larger red lumps. The verdict? I’m allergic (or highly sensitive to) mosquito bites. Yeah, apparently that’s a thing. Let’s hope I don’t pass along this obnoxious trait to my daughter.
Needless to say, many many summers later and I’m a pro at treating incredibly itchy (and sometimes painful) bug bites. Here are some low waste (aka, not too much packaging to deal with unlike store-bought remedies) and effective ways to calm that itch so you don’t spend all summer scratch-scratch-scratching!
- Apple Cider Vinegar
I’m not going to bury the lead – this is my favorite remedy. In my experience the smell dissipates quite quickly, but if you’re worried about lingering “salad dressing smell,” rinse/wipe afterwards with cold water on a cloth.
- (Cold) Witch Hazel
I keep some witch hazel in a glass spray bottle (like these*) in my fridge to spray on bites. Feels nice immediately and when it dries down it continues to help.
- Tea Tree Oil
Make a solution of water and tea tree oil* in a small glass spray bottle (like these*) and spray a bit on your bites. Some people recommend undiluted tea tree but it can be really powerful and even cause a ‘burn’/rash. So, unless you know exactly how your skin will react, I’d dilute it at first. This works well but I’m not a huge fan of the tea tree smell that lingers. However, this is quite effective and you can customize the strength by adding more/fewer drops of tea tree based on your preference.
- Ice cubes/frozen washcloth/ice pack
This is a classic remedy but for me, doesn’t last as long as I’d like. Feels really great while you have the ice on your bite, but the itch might come back. This one is good for kiddos, though as they typically like handing the cold object/pack.
There are lots of other remedies out there – a cold tea bag, honey, etc. have all been recommended to me. But the ones above are my favorites.
You might be thinking that the best thing to do is try to avoid bites to begin with. The truth is you really cannot fully protect yourself with all-natural products, but that’s okay with me! I was always bitten even when I sprayed gross crap all over my clothing and skin … and hair … and lungs. Ew. With the remedies above, I’m fine dealing with the few bites I may get if it means I’m not dousing myself and my family with unnecessary and potentially dangerous toxins.
Here are my techniques for repelling the tiny buzzing beasts when we’re out on a hike through the woods, or hiking out to the coffee shop:
- Wear protective clothing, especially on the feet and around the ankles. A tighter weave will better protect you from bugs (and, bonus UV rays!)
- My favorite repellent is by Healing Earth, a local Vermont company. I don’t love that the packaging is plastic, but it is recyclable (down-cycle-able?)
- Make your own bug spray! When my HE supply runs out I will be trying one from this Wellness Mama post. I’ll update this post when I do! A few others that look interesting: this homemade spray, this cream and these bug repellent lotion bars.
You can also apparently repel bugs by planting certain kinds of plants in your back yard (if you have a back yard and can plant things there, that is). There are also new options for non-toxic repelling candles coming on the market without dyes and other potentially harmful ingredients burning off into your air and lungs. The traditional candles (with their sickly scent and gross yellow color) never really stopped the buggers from coming at me, but perhaps they’ll keep some percentage away. I’d like to try out one of the candles by Hillhouse and I’ll report back.
Despite the subject of this post, I am really excited for summer – our first in our new house with our very own yard! – and I’m planning to be outside as much as I can. I’ll just make sure to have lots of natural bug spray and itch remedies on hand.
*This post may contain affiliate links where I get a tiny commission. Your shopping experience isn’t effected in any way. Affiliate links are indicated with an asterisk.