Bug bites? Try toothpaste, essential oils to ease pain

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Dear Pharmacist: I use hydrocortisone cream for my bug bites. It works, but is there something else to manage this or the pain and itch? Me and my kids get bit frequently and I don't like the idea of "taking a bath" in chemical creams. — K.K., Tulsa, Okla.

Dear K.K.: I have other "bath" ideas to share with you. What you do for a bug bite depends on the type of critter. For example, bites from bees, wasps, yellow jackets and fire ants are the most common. Unless you're highly allergic, these bites can be treated at home. Bites from scorpions and certain spiders often require medical attention. Bites from ticks (if you're lucky enough to see it, because you won't feel it) should be treated with prescribed antibiotics for at least four weeks.

Let me keep it simple today. Pharmacists like hydrocortisone cream because it works quickly, controls the itch, pain, swelling and redness. Lidocaine or numbing sprays provide yet another option to minimize pain.

Here are other potential solutions:

Ice pack. The cold takes down swelling and pain.

Baking soda. Right after you're bitten, make a paste using baking soda and water, add in meat tenderizer if you have it. Reapply every 15 minutes for about an hour. It helps with pain, itch and redness. The meat tenderizer neutralizes any venom injected into you by the bug.

Ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Over-the-counter medications can temporarily control pain.

Oral antihistamines- Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is often used to control full-body itching. But this stuff can knock you out. No driving!

Toothpaste. Fluoride in toothpaste seems to calm the sting.

Essential oils. Lavender oil is soothing and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-venom aid. Peppermint oil and lavender both reduce risk of infection. Tea tree oil may disinfect the area. These oils may sting if you apply undiluted. For some, a 50/50 mix with a carrier oil, like olive or coconut, might be better. You can put essential oils in your bath.

Peroxide and Epsom salts. Dump the whole 4-pound back of Epsom salts in warm (not hot) water, along with a pint (or two) of hydrogen peroxide. This home remedy has anecdotal evidence; it's a very strong detoxifying bath and might cause an unpleasant Herxheimer reaction the first few times, so get your doctor's blessings. It's not right for everyone.

Aveeno Oatmeal. This is 100 percent Colloidal Oatmeal that helps to control itching. Pour the flakes under the faucet and soak in it.

Preparation H Hemorrhoidal Cream. It contains pramoxine, which controls pain.

Chiggerex. Chiggers are immature mites and not easily seen. Their itch is diabolic, compared with their microscopic size! Chiggerex is sold at pharmacies and brings quick relief.

This is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Go to SuzyCohen.com.

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