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July 24, 2011 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of any good home or drugstore remedies for horrendously itchy bug bites?

So I am about to claw my feet into bloody stumps if these bites don't stop itching! The biters were not mosquitos - they were these horrible flies that were maybe a bit smaller than the average housefly, with these kind of striped wings. Mostly they're concentrated all over my feet and ankles, if that makes a difference - horrid little red bumps/welts.

So, I implore you, what have you used on insect bites that relieved the itching at least long enough for you to fall asleep?

I and my poor feet thank you very much!
posted by deep thought sunstar to Health & Fitness (48 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
did you try Benadryl cream?
posted by sweetkid at 6:37 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hydrocortisone cream would be the cheaper, generic version. It is available without a prescription. Apply it like you would antibiotic ointment (but no need for bandaid, obviously).
posted by maryr at 6:40 PM on July 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

PS: You might want to wear socks as well to both protect your sheets from the cream and to prevent yourself from scratching yourself in the night/in your sleep. (You don't need the socks or to cover the bites for the cream to work - this just my common sense speaking.)
posted by maryr at 6:42 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

We keep Aveeno on hand just for this very reason.
posted by ralan at 6:43 PM on July 24, 2011

I'm a big fan of After-Bite, available at most drugstores. The active ingredient is ammonia, if you want to give that a shot at home, DIY-style, maybe along with an antihistamine... and maybe a shot of whiskey (or some other more official sleep aid) to help knock yourself out at bedtime? Good luck -- that sounds like agony.
posted by mauvest at 6:47 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hydrocortisone cream definitely, though if you're headed to the drugstore also pick yourself up a boar bristle (scratchy) hair brush - it's much less damaging to your skin to scratch with a brush like that than it is to use your fingernails, and WAY more scratchy-satisfying. (I'm just getting over a few nasty mosquito bites on my toes/ankle - scratching with a bristly brush, then hydrocortisone cream was what let me get back to sleep in the middle of the night. YMMV.)
posted by amy lecteur at 6:48 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Meat tenderizer paste or calendula oil/gel.
posted by katy song at 6:48 PM on July 24, 2011

I use Benadryl sticks for the first night and aloe with lidocaine for the next few days.
posted by SMPA at 6:48 PM on July 24, 2011

Best answer: 1) I know they're not chigger bites. but have you tried nailpolish? The burn will put that particular horrendously itchy bite out of your mind long enough to let the itch relax a little while. It might be worth trying.
2) Ice can be better than nothing if nothing is what you got.
3) Very hot water can also alleviate bad itches for a little while, possibly long enough to get some rest. Basically, let it get hot enough that you have an itch-gasm when you submerge the afflicted area (thank you AskMe for that highly accurate term).
4) Tylenol took the edge off some really bad poison ivy I had recently. Have you taken any?

Good luck :P There's better stuff out there, but if you're working with whatever's on hand, that's as low-tech as I've got.
posted by Ys at 6:49 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Stick your feet into ice cold water, and then into hot water, and maybe back into the cold water. Supposedly, the nerves in your skin will get confused by all the temperature switching that your feet will forget they itch!
posted by katypickle at 6:49 PM on July 24, 2011

Yes to Benadryl cream, but taking oral Benadryl about an hour before bed will help too.
posted by something something at 6:50 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mom used meat tenderizer on me when I was young. I tasted it as a kid, and it tasted like salt. So if I don't have meat tenderizer at hand (which is usually), I use salt. They both give me an "ow, that hurts!" followed by relief. YMMV.
posted by Monday at 6:53 PM on July 24, 2011

Gold Bond Anti Itch Creme. I'm suffering thru poison ivy right now, the Gold Bond stuff is amazing. It is actually a topical pain killer that deadens the nerves near the skin. I get about 2-3 hours of complete relief from it.
posted by COD at 6:56 PM on July 24, 2011

This stuff was a godsend when we got bird mites.
posted by griphus at 6:57 PM on July 24, 2011

Best answer: Take Benedryl, sting the bites with alcohol (vodka or other booze works fine) or after-bite, and either take an oatmeal bath or salve them with copious amounts of barely-wet oatmeal.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:58 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a similar experience on my legs and feet, and the best practice I came up with was to apply hot compresses - as hot as you can stand. Then apply cortisone or benadryl or menthol gel or whatever you have on hand. This way, the itching will come back but the medication / soothing agent is there to meet it and you'll get a few hours of relief before you have to do it again. It'll be enough to get you to sleep at any rate. Oral antihistamines will help, too.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:59 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Second Benedryl cream and/or hydrocortisone cream. Those are your best bets. If for some reason you can't go out to the drug store this evening run he affected area (assumming the sking isn;t raw or broken) under the hottest water you can possibly stand ( a shower spray is best) . I mean really really hot. Then after a few minutes make it a bit hotter. Run the area under that for several minutes (don't burn yourself of course) You'll find this gives you about 30 -40 minutes of relief from itching.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:59 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I get mosquito bites, they swell up bigger than quarters. To make the itching stop I take an oral antihistamine (Benedryl, Allegra, Zyrtec, etc.) and use both hydrocortisone and Gold Bond cream.
posted by geeky at 7:10 PM on July 24, 2011

Nthing After-Bite.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 7:34 PM on July 24, 2011

Seconding the idea to (in addition to cream) taking Benedryl before bed. It will help with the itching and, better yet, act as a sedative.
posted by maryr at 7:35 PM on July 24, 2011

My go-to anti-itch stuff is Calagel.
posted by smangosbubbles at 7:48 PM on July 24, 2011

Thirding the above recommendation to take Benadryl.

I recently had a very nasty spider bite on my calf: a very easy-to-scratch location. It swelled to the size of a half-dollar coin, and was very red. I applied hydrocortisone cream, covered it with a large piece of gauze and medical tape, then put on a loose legwarmer so that it couldn't come undone from constant rubbing against my comforter. I also took two 25mg Benadryl capsules to further calm the inflammation & help me go to sleep.

The next morning, the bite was still itchy, but the swelling had gone down considerably.
posted by invisible ink at 7:50 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

benadryl gel. it is so awesome i can't even describe!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:52 PM on July 24, 2011

Best answer: I highly recommend Sarna lotion, available at Walmart or Walgreens (at least in my area). It is a cooling, non-steriodal lotion that works really well, and can be used in coordination with hydrocortisone cream. I used it for a fungal infection I had that was literally driving me mad, and it helped sooooooooo much.

Good luck, poor you and poor feet! I hope you find peace. :)
posted by minx at 7:57 PM on July 24, 2011

Nth Campho-Phenique
posted by Drama Penguin at 7:59 PM on July 24, 2011

I get the same type of bites whenever I am hiking. I usually fill a a quart sized baggie with ice and tape it around my ankles and take a benedryl. After 20 minutes when the bene is kicking in, I untape the ice and try to pass out before my legs regain feeling.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:07 PM on July 24, 2011

Best answer: i haven't tried this myself for bug bites, but besides all the other suggestions, how about noxzema? i use that for just about everything else and it works on some strange sunburn. just wipe it on, and then wipe off the excess -- don't rinse. for sunburn, the combination of cooling and tingling is comforting; maybe this would be true for itching as well.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:08 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ice helps a lot. Also take benadryl or similar at night to help you sleep.

I had a huge horrible reaction like that once, and I called my dermatologist and he was able to call in a cream. I rotated between that (it was some kind of steroid cream), Campho-Phenique, and cortisone.
posted by radioamy at 8:11 PM on July 24, 2011

Benedryl solves the problem but also makes me kind of dysfunctional. Claritin (OTC -- I take Target's generic) does the trick.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 8:18 PM on July 24, 2011

The suggested meat tenderizer is mostly papain, so if you don't have any you could try mashing a papaya and applying the pulp. (Assuming you have a kitchen that keeps papayas on hand but not meat tenderizer, that is...)

I've had good experiences with plantain-based salves from the health food store (broad-leafed plantain, not the kind one eats). There was one called "Children's Salve" my mother used to get that was great.
posted by Lexica at 8:31 PM on July 24, 2011

Try heat, like a lot of people have suggested. In my family, we just blast bug bites with a hairdryer until we can't take it anymore (be careful not to burn yourself, obviously) and it works every time.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:35 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're in Canada you can get fairly strong topical anaesthetic creams OTC -- Emla, Maxilene, I don't know what else. Wonderful! For extra awesome, glop it on and then cover it with Tegaderm film. The worst bite withers to nothing.

Rather less advanced: I have had some luck in putting a piece of tape over bites.

I grew up swearing by Caladryl, but it's very hard to find nowadays.
posted by kmennie at 8:38 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of AfterBite for insect bites. It seems to work best when applied immediately after the bite occurs, but I think it does have some effect if used later. Most times if I use AfterBite on a bug bite and try to distract myself from scratching for a while, an hour later I'll find that the itch has gone away completely (and it doesn't come back).
posted by Orinda at 8:46 PM on July 24, 2011

Vicks VapoRub will not only take the pain out, it'll bring down any swelling.
posted by palomar at 8:49 PM on July 24, 2011

Witch hazel gel (available at most pharmacies) has worked wonders for mosquito bites for me. Also, I've heard that if you take a Benadryl gelcap (intended for ingestion), crack it open, and apply the contents directly to the bite, it'll work well, because it's much more concentrated than the Benadryl cream. I don't know if that's wise, but I've heard it's possible.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:00 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing really, really hot water for a couple of seconds. Don't know why it works, but it does.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 9:01 PM on July 24, 2011

I think someone already mentioned this but a piece of scotch (clear tape) over a bite is a simple but shockingly effective method for alleviating the itch. I get God-awful mosquito bites that have swelled to the width of a baseball, but if I put a piece right over the (for lack of a better word) 'epicenter' (the little divot where the insect actually pierced the skin) I find that I forget about it very soon after.
posted by lovableiago at 9:03 PM on July 24, 2011

Also, I see that people are recommending the Benadryl cream but if it's a real issue at night and you're gonna go to sleep anyway, just take 1 or 2 Benadryl pills. They'll make you drowsy but reduce your body's histamine reaction to the bites, which will indirectly help you sleep of course (two birds one stone with the sleeping).
posted by lovableiago at 9:05 PM on July 24, 2011

A blogger in Wyoming who is an EMT is spending the summer off the grid up a mountain with her animals and she recommended this. It's the only product I've ever known her to recommend. There are some reviews in the comments at that link. I ordered some but have had no occasion to use it yet.
posted by Anitanola at 9:29 PM on July 24, 2011

Response by poster: You people are the best ever! Swabbing with some vodka right now, going to the store for Benadryl. Thank you all so much! :)
posted by deep thought sunstar at 11:55 PM on July 24, 2011

Quercetin as a supplement, or raw onions which contain it.
posted by Not Supplied at 1:30 AM on July 25, 2011

Regarding kmennie's suggestion for topical anesthetics, EMLA (and I think it's called ELA-Max now) is a lidocane cream, which is great but you don't want to wrap it - I cant find the link right now but it can be very dangerous to OD on topical lidocane.
posted by radioamy at 4:55 AM on July 25, 2011

I currently have 11 fire ant bites on one foot (it was a fun weekend). I have found, both in this instance and previous ones*, that benedryl cream, cortisone cream, every single one of those over the counter anti-itch things are completely worthless, like maybe they help for about 2-3 minutes but after that I'm still scratching like mad only now I've got this greasy stuff all over. ymmv though, I wish you luck. I have currently tied an ice pack to my foot, it is the ONLY thing that stops the itching long enough for me to fall asleep.

*I spend most summers covered in insect bites, mosquitos usually but lots of others too, they love me. I have a lot of experience with itchy bug bites.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:37 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whoever recommended the Benadryl gel, + 1000. I don't know why, but it's much more effective than the cream ( clinically allergic to mosquito bites here).
posted by sideofwry at 9:39 AM on July 25, 2011

I've killed the majority of the itch from fire ant bites by holding a piece of ice to the bite as long as I can stand it.
posted by telophase at 11:07 AM on July 25, 2011

If it helps anyone, Benadryl and Unisom Sleepgels have the the same thing in them (diphenhydramine), only there's twice as much (50mg vs. 25mg) in a Sleepgel. So if you were ever planning to take two Benadryls or one Unisom, you could use whichever you had on hand instead of going off in search for one in particular. Just make sure the Unisom is one of the sleepgels and not the sleeptabs or sleepmelts or any other made up word, and that the active ingredient is diphenhydramine, because their other formulations use a different active ingredient.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:27 PM on July 25, 2011

Okay, sorry; it looks like Tegaderming your topical anaesthetic is perhaps not risk-free. "Overdose may also occur if you apply heat, bandages, or plastic wrap to treated skin areas." (via) I am talking about a wee blob that I don't want dislodged as I'm just about to get into bed and wee blobs have never caused me any trouble, but, yeah, listen to radioamy, or your doctor. (Though FWIW I got the idea from having plastic wrap put over a thick layer of Maxilene by a nurse, prior to a medical procedure)

I have a Benadryl "stick" and find it pretty useless; generic hydrocortisone is the go-to for basic bites here.
posted by kmennie at 8:54 PM on July 25, 2011

Response by poster: You all are the best ever. I did indeed sleep (vodka, ice, benadryl cream) not necessarily in that order :) Thank you, everyone who contributed.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 9:34 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

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