Both Clara and I must have super-delicious skin, because we get bit no matter where we are. We’re talking mosquitoes, gnats, and horseflies. I’ve tried preventative measures, like citronella candles and all kinds of natural sprays, but they never seem to work for us—and besides, I don’t like their smell. So I’ve become obsessed with finding the remedy that works to take away the itch, once we get the bite, without stinging us so much that we’d rather itch. Here are several I’ve found that seem effective, although each comes with its own caveat.
Some of the best remedies I’ve found are balms and salves, meaning they’re made with an oil base, which stains when it comes into contact with clothing, walls or furniture. I love these products because they contain no alcohol or stinging agents, so I can put them on without any cries from Clara. The fuss comes from dad, though, when he finds the stains all over the house and on her clothes. So I try to use these when I know we’re going to be outside, and with clothes where a little grease mark won’t matter. Here are our favorites:
Salves and Balms:
- Ditch The Itch: we found this at one of our favorite NYC store, Kiosk, which sources some of the cleverest products out there. Its main ingredient is chickweed.
- Tara’s Herbs: When I started to nose around the Internet looking for other chickweed options (hoping to turn up one that wasn’t a balm), I discovered Laura Lago, a teacher and practitioner of herbal medicine, who makes her own products. And while her chickweed ointment does contain oils (coconut, olive, almond), it’s a great option within this category, because it also works for diaper rash, eczema, and skin rashes.
- Bitecare Gel: This works well if there’s no open wound. Otherwise, it will bring on cries and yelps, as it does contain some alcohol, which can sting. I use this on Clara the second we’re bitten and hope that it will take away itch. If she keeps itching and creates an open wound, we move into a balm situation. When I put this on immediately after getting bit, it seems to stop the itch completely.
- Topricin Junior: This doesn’t have the grease-factor, or the sting, so we really like it for that, but it doesn’t seem to completely eliminate the itch, so we end up re-applying it often. It is made up of many homeopathic ingredients, with no parabens or alcohol.
- EMUgency First Aid Spray: This doesn’t sting, and seems to take away the itch. It isn’t greasy, but it does have a yellow tint, so keep it away from clothing. We keep this in the car, the house, and the kit that we travel with, because it seems to help with lots of issues (burns, cuts, etc) besides bites. It contains manuka, neem, and tea tree oil, in addition to the emu oil—all ingredients that are unusual, and apparently very effective.
- Apis Mellifica: We always keep the remedy on hand, and it seems to help take away the fiery urge to scratch. It’s a remedy that works for many issues, but with its Latin name meaning “honeybee,” it makes sense that one of its primary uses is for stinging and itching.
I’d love to hear what works for you, or for any member of the family…we all have such different skin, so it’s good to have an arsenal of ideas to try!
Yolanda Edwards has worked at Elle, W, and Conde Nast Traveler, and was the founding travel and lifestyle editor of Cookie. Today she is a consultant and author of the family travel blog Travels With Clara.