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Wellness

Doctors’ Best Home Remedies for Summer Bothers Like Bug Bites, Splinters + More

See the pantry staple that neutralizes bee sting venom on contact

Summer’s finally here! But with the warmer weather comes the increased chance of hassles like a poison ivy rash, insect bites and sunburns. The good news? We’ve rounded up the most tried-and-true home remedies for summer bothers. And you can find everything you need right in your kitchen or medicine cabinet.

The best home remedies for summer bothers

No matter what minor bothers are sapping your summer fun, these simple (and effective!) home remedies can help.

1. Bug bite? Apply tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is one of the top home remedies for summer bothers like mosquito bites. It contains antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antiseptic properties. One study in the British Journal of Dermatology also found tea tree oil can work as a natural antihistamine, reducing itching and swelling.

One thing to keep in mind is tea tree oil can cause irritation if you have sensitive skin, says O. Nefertiti Nwaobasi, MD, a primary care physician at Main Line HealthCare Primary Care in Guthriesville, located in Downingtown, PA and part of the Main Line Health hospital system. If that’s the case, she says peppermint oil makes a great alternative, since it may be less irritating for some people.

To cut down the oil’s intensity, dilute it with water. “I’ll put a couple of drops of the oil on a cotton ball or swab, then dip it in water or run it under the faucet real quick,” says Dr. Nwaobasi. You can apply the oil to mosquito bites two to three times a day as needed for relief and discomfort, she advises. (Learn why tea tree oil is good for eczema, too.)

Tip: Wearing purple, blue, green or white clothing may help keep you from being bitten. Why? A study in Nature Communications, mosquitoes are more attracted to red, orange, or black clothing.

2. Bee sting? Dab with apple cider vinegar

One way to ease pain and inflammation from a bee sting is to apply apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the area. “Apple cider vinegar may help neutralize the bee venom, working to make it less potent,” says Kiran Mullur, MD, an assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. ACV has also been shown to have antibacterial properties, according to a study in Scientific Reports.

But before applying ACV as a home remedy, you’ll want to avoid using tweezers to remove the stinger. “Doing so can squeeze the stinger, pushing extra venom into the skin,” says Kaushal B. Nanavati, MD, assistant dean of wellness and an assistant professor of family medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY.

Remove the stinger by lightly scraping the area with a sanitized credit card or ID card, says Dr. Mullur. After removing the stinger, wash the area with soap and water and gently pat dry. Then, apply a cotton ball with ACV for at least 15 minutes, he advises.

“Although it may sting at first, it should ease up,” Dr. Mullur says. “You can also cut down on the vinegar’s acidity by adding some water to it.”

Tip: Avoid touching or eating a banana if you’ll be in an area where bees live. Bananas contain the same pheromone bees release when they’re threatened, causing them to enter fight mode.

3. Poison ivy rash? Draw an oatmeal bath

A bowl of oats against a blue background, which is one of the best home remedies for summer bothers
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Humble oatmeal is one of the best home remedies for summer bothers. If you’ve had the misfortune of coming into contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac, taking a colloidal (finely ground) oatmeal bath can help you feel better fast.

“Oats contain linoleic acid, which helps reduce some of the inflammatory cytokines [proteins] that can trigger inflammation,” explains Dr. Nanavati. Don’t have time for a soak? You can also use an oatmeal-based cream, he adds. One to try: Aveeno Skin Relief Moisture Repair Cream.

4. Splinter? Soak in Epsom salts

Splinters can be painful and become infected if left in your skin. Removing a splinter can be frustrating, but submerging the area in Epsom salts can help bring it closer to the surface, says Dr. Nanavati. “The salts work to draw out the fluids, allowing the splinter to come out with it,” he explains.

Another reason why Epsom salts are great for splinter removal is because they soften the skin around the splinter, making it easier to pull it out. Simply dissolve a cup of Epsom salts in warm water and submerge the splintered area for about 10 minutes.

When you’re ready to extract the splinter, wash your hands and clean the area first, says Dr. Mullur. “You also want to sterilize the tweezers or needle you’ll be using to take it out, because you’re going to be making a poke or a break in the skin,” he advises.

Once you get the splinter out, Dr. Mullur says clean the area again, apply a thick barrier product such as petroleum jelly and cover with an adhesive bandage. “The break in the skin is so teeny-tiny, you’ll recover quickly with new skin growing overnight.”

Tip: Another way to get a tough splinter to the surface is by putting duct tape over it. “Leave the tape on for 20 to 30 minutes, then slowly remove in opposite direction from where splinter entered,” says Dr. Nanavati. “The splinter will stick to the tape and you can slowly get it out.”

5. Upset stomach? Sip ginger limeade

glass of ginger limeade, a home remedy for a stomachache caused by overdoing it on summer foods
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At a summer gathering, it can be tempting to overdo it, resulting in an upset stomach. Chances are you may not feel like eating much if you’ve got indigestion, cramps or nausea. But don’t hold back on hydration, says Dr. Nanavati. “Having clear liquids allows the stomach to settle,” he says. “Oftentimes, you’ll find in 24 to 48 hours you’ll feel better. After that, you can start to reintroduce food.”

Dr. Nanavati suggests drinking ginger limeade to help offset the gastrointestinal distress. “Ginger and lime can both help to settle the stomach, and if you have diarrhea, ginger limeade can help replace lost electrolytes,” he explains.

Try this simple (and delicious!) ginger limeade recipe from Dr. Nanavati:

  • 8 oz. water
  • Juice from ½ of fresh lime
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. of fresh grated ginger

Combine all ingredients into a tall glass with ice and stir. If desired, add a natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, maple syrup or agave).

6. Mild burn? Coat it with honey

Minor grill burns and sunburns are two common summer bothers that can be treated with home remedies. Your best bet: honey. It contains anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory components, and can accelerate wound healing, according to a study in Molecules.

And another study in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews suggests honey may heal second-degree burns more quickly than some more conventional remedies such as antiseptics and gauze.

The caveat: Make sure you’re using medical-grade honey. This sterile product is formulated and processed for safety and less likely to cause a skin reaction. One example of a medical-grade honey is Manuka, which has been shown to be effective for skin wounds because it has a higher content of antioxidant and bacteria-killing properties, found a study in the International Journal of Dermatology.

Apply a thin layer of sterile Manuka honey once or twice daily to the burned areas. If the burn area is smaller, you may choose to cover it with loose adhesive or sterile gauze pad.

Avoid icing a burn

It might be tempting to turn to ice immediately after burning yourself, but this can actually damage your skin’s tissue by constricting the blood vessels, says Dr. Nwaobasi. “When you decrease blood flow to a wound, you have a risk of delayed healing and/or worsening of dead tissue,” she says. Instead, rinse the burn with cool water. Then with clean hands, apply the honey.


For more ways to soothe common summer health bothers:

These Are the Best Home Remedies for Poison Ivy + One OTC That May Worsen Irritation for Some

Bothered by Red, Itchy Skin on Hot Days? Doctors Share How To Get Rid of a Heat Rash Quickly

A Top Sunburn Self-Care Remedy May Already Be in Your Fridge — Plus See What Doctors Say To Skip

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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