The weather is gorgeous. The holiday is going beautifully. The landscape – whether it’s the beach or the open countryside – is looking inspirational. And then along comes………bzzz…….bzzzz…….bzzzzz. And ouch.
Insect bites are the bane of summer. Bees, wasps, mosquitos and other crawl-y creatures can deliver quite a whack. It can be painful and certainly irritating and itchy.
And have you noticed that when you’re out and about those pesky beasts seem to KNOW that you haven’t remembered to bring the anti-itch cream?
You need a few emergency remedies – and they can be found all over the place, out there in nature.
The most important first aid is to wash out the sting with water – and soap if you have it. Bees can leave a barbed sting along with a poison sac so they need to be removed. Use your fingernail if you can, not tweezers which can easily break the sting and/or sac.
For BEE STINGS, which are acid: find some plaintain (Plantago major) and/or some lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Bash them, or chew them a bit (they don’t taste bad and certainly won’t poison you), so that you have a rough sort of paste to place on the sting and hold in place with a clean hanky or similar. You can also use houseleeks (Sempervivum tectorum): break of a leaf and squeeze out the juice; apply gently – which are brilliant for any itchy bite too, in my experience. Follow up with an ice-pack if you can.
For WASP STINGS, which are alkaline: any of these can help: a chamomile wash (yup – a teabag will do); fresh basil leaves, placed directly on the sting area and replaced regularly; a slice of raw onion or garlic; cider vinegar blended with some water. An ice-pack is useful too.
For ITCHY BITES: houseleeks (Sempervivum tectorum) and plaintain (Plantago major): break of a leaf and squeeze out the juice; apply gently – which are brilliant, in my experience. Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) flowers – again mush them as best you can before applying; lavender essential oil (direct if you’re an adult, blended with almond or sunflower oil for children, and very dilute for babies – a couple of drops in 50ml of oil); the same with tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil. Both are excellent antiseptics and anti-inflammatories. Dock leaves (Rumex obtusifolius), famous for calming nettle stings, can be great insect sting soothers too; as can its scruffy looking edible cousin Northern Dock (Rumex longifolius).
Lemon balm Plaintain
These are countryside remedies – there are plenty more of course – but I’ve mentioned these because we don’t always remember to pack first aid remedies and many of these herbs can be found in all sorts of places in and around holiday spots, including, perhaps, your picnic box.
There are, too, plenty of herbal insect repellants: basil, for instance, is surprisingly effective. But more of this in another blog.
Meanwhile: enjoy your holidays in the knowledge that you will know what to do when that bzzzz….bzzzz…bzzzzz …. comes along. Of course you could always do the sensible thing and remember to take a pot of Soothing Salve (the lavender is superb) or Baby Balm (with soothing calendula).
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- Herbal Treatment of Children by Anne McIntyre; pub. Elsevier 2005 ISBN 978-0-7506-5174-5
- Herbs in the Treatment of Children by Scott/Barlow; pub. Elsevier Science 2003, ISBN 0-443-07163-2
- Herbs encyclopaedia; pub. Dorling Kindersley1990 ISBN 0-8631-8436-7
- Safe, Natural Remedies for Babies and Children by Amanda Cochrane; pub. Thorsons 1997 ISBN 0-7225-3369-1