1. Calamine lotion
The lotion creates a cooling sensation that temporarily relieves itching and discomfort, says Westley. That means once the lotion wears off (usually after a couple of hours), you’ll probably start to itch again.
You can use it on its own if it’s enough to make you comfortable, but you can also combine it with other treatments, like hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines.
How to use it: Apply a thin layer over the affected area and reapply as needed. Available as an over-the-counter medication at most drugstores.
2. Hydrocortisone cream
If calamine lotion doesn’t help, try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment or cream that contains 1 percent hydrocortisone, Westley recommends.
They contain corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, redness, and swelling - which ease itching.
If an OTC cream isn’t getting the job done, your doctor can prescribe a stronger prescription cream.
How to use it: Apply a thin layer over the affected area up to twice a day, or as prescribed by your doctor. Just don’t go crazy: Overuse of hydrocortisone cream can actually make your skin more irritated and lead to discoloration.
“If you’re itchy in between applications, you can use calamine lotion,” Westley says
3. Oral antihistamine
Taking an oral antihistamine (like Benadryl) can give all-over relief by calming your body’s response to histamines, the compounds that cause all that itching.
“They’re especially good for when you’re having trouble sleeping, since they make you drowsy,” says Westley.
If you want to take antihistamines during the day, look for a non-drowsy formula designed to be taken during the day, like Claritin or Zyrtec.
How to use them: Follow the dosing amount on the product label or your doctor’s instructions.
Taking more won’t relieve your symptoms faster, and could put you at risk for side effects like nausea or vomiting, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, and even seizures.
“The cold is vasoconstricting, so it reduces the amount of blood flowing to the bite area to reduce swelling and itching,” Westley says.
Like calamine lotion, you can use it to get extra relief in between other treatments such as hydrocortisone cream, she says.
How to use it: Fill a zip-top bag with ice, wrap the bag in a kitchen towel or cloth, and apply to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat as needed, up to once an hour.
5. Cold tea bag
Like ice, a tea bag soaked in cold water will reduce blood flow to the surface of your skin to take down swelling and ease itchiness. Depending on the variety, tea may also contain compounds called tannins, which helps reduce swelling.
Westley recommends using black tea, since it contains the most tannins.
How to use it: Dunk a tea bag in very cold water until the bag is fully soaked through.
Gently squeeze the tea bag to remove excess liquid, and apply to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat as needed.
6. Oatmeal bath
Oatmeal contains calming properties that moisturize skin and lower pH level to soothe irritation and reduce itching, says Westley.
How to use it: Try this on its own, or while you’re waiting for your antihistamine to kick in.
Finely grind one cup of rolled oatmeal in a blender or food processor to make a flour-like powder, and sprinkle in a lukewarm bath. (Grinding the oats makes it easier for the calming compounds to penetrate your skin.)
Or, get a premade option at the drugstore, like Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment.
Soak in the bath for 10 minutes.
Since Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory, your go-to for headaches could also help relieve some of the swelling in your bug bite.
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Allure that the best way to use this common home drug is by making a paste and applying it topically. How to use it: Crush up an Aspirin and dissolve with a little bit of water to turn into paste. Apply topically to bite.
Aloe Vera Gel
It may be better known for soothing your skin when it’s had too much sun, but this plant can help with bug bites, too. Aloe vera works because it has anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal minor wounds.
Purchase pure aloe vera gel or squeeze the gel directly from the plant. Store your gel in the fridge as the cold temperature can help with itchiness.
How to use it: Cut open the plant and apply the gel directly to your bite. Repeat as needed.