Home Treatments for Stings and Bites

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on February 09, 2021
2 min read

If an insect bite or sting causes a severe reaction, get medical help right away. If you’re pregnant, be sure to tell your doctor that, too.

For a bite or sting that isn’t serious, the main goal is simply to ease pain and discomfort. Try these tips to nurse basic stings and bites at home.

General insect bites. Stinging? Burning? Tingling? Soothe them all with an ice cube, a cold washcloth, calamine lotion, a paste of baking soda, or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment. For mosquito or other minor bites, try calamine lotion.

Ticks. If you find a tick embedded in your skin, carefully take it out without crushing it. Grip it near the head with tweezers or gloved fingers and pull gently and steadily. Call your doctor and find out if you need to take a medicine to prevent Lyme disease.

Watch for a rash. This could indicate Lyme disease, tularemia, relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or another disease. If you develop one, call your doctor.

Fire ants. Soak the affected area in ice water and use an anti-itch medicine to calm your skin.

If you’ve been bitten or stung by any of the following (or think you have), call your doctor:

Black widow. Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine and/or medications for nausea and muscle spasms. If your reaction is severe, they may also prescribe antivenom. This is a biological product that reverses the effects of the spider’s poison.

Brown recluse. A spreading wound from this spider should be cleaned and repaired by a doctor. Surgery isn't always needed. Until you can get to a doctor, apply cold packs -- not ice -- to the site.

Scorpion. If your symptoms are severe, call 911. Otherwise, see your doctor as soon as you can. They may give you drugs to neutralize the venom or a medication to relieve muscle spasms. The FDA has approved Anascorp, a treatment specifically for scorpion stings.