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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, Oklahoma

Answer: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 4 weeks.

Let me keep it simple today. Pharmacists like hydrocortisone cream because it works quickly, controls the itch, pain, swelling and redness. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) cream may help in this regard too. 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 get bit, make a paste using baking soda and water, add in meat tenderizer if you have it. Wash the paste and reapply every 15 minutes for about an hour. It helps with pain, itch and redness. The meat tenderizer neutralizes venom injected into you by the bug.

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

Oral antihistamines- Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is often used to control full-body itching. Don't say I didn't warn you (yawn) 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. Speaking of baths...

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; you pour the flakes under the faucet of your bath and soak in it. Think that's weird? It's not compared to what I say next.

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

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

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website,

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)