Activated Charcoal Uses – Part 2

Summer is a wonderful time of the year. The warm weather beckons us to enjoy the sandy beaches, sparkling lakes, and forested trails around the country or close to home. But as we have learned from personal experience, summer also brings an abundance of encounters with biting, stinging critters! As we learned in Part 1, activated charcoal has many different medicinal applications—you may already be aware of some of them—but today we’re going to elaborate on these insect bites and stings.

Natural Remedy for Fire Ant Bites

Anyone who has ever been bitten by fire ants knows it is a painful, itchy experience. These symptoms are not caused by the actual bite, but rather by the venom these industrious little creatures inject. This venom triggers swelling, itching, and even destroys a tiny area of tissue around the injection site. Yikes!

An effective and inexpensive solution is to take a self-adhesive bandage and apply a little water to the gauze—just enough to dampen it. Next, sprinkle some powdered charcoal on the damp gauze or rub it with a charcoal pill until it is black. Put this small poultice over the sting to counteract the symptoms from the venom. If there are multiple bites, make a larger poultice by cutting some gauze or a sheet. Cover it with plastic (like cling wrap if available) to keep it moist. To find an online supplier of charcoal poultices/dressings, try “activated charcoal dressing” as a search term.

If mosquito and chigger bites are what ail you, don’t worry, because these applications will work wonders for those too! Even poison ivy rash can be effectively treated with activated charcoal.

Activated Charcoal for Stings

The ideal treatment for bee, hornet or wasp (like a yellow jacket etc.) stings is again, a charcoal poultice. If present, remove the stinger with your fingernails, a credit card, or tweezers to gently scrape away or pull out the stinger. Cut a piece of gauze or a sheet. Use water to dampen the material and then add activated charcoal. Place the poultice over the sting site and then cover it with plastic (like a plastic cling wrap) to keep it moist. You may also use the bandage application mentioned above.

So, whether you’re planning to enjoy the great outdoors by taking a vacation or just relaxing at home, be sure to have a supply of activated charcoal on hand. You’ll be glad you did!

Note: Although most insect bites and stings can be treated at home, some people have severe allergies to the venom and will require emergency medical attention.

Did you know that charcoal can also be used to treat spider and snake bites. Learn more in the next article!

<-Part 1 | What Is Activated Charcoal?  Part 3 | Natural Remedies and Charcoal->

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Jon Ewald, MD

Jon Ewald grew up in Minnesota and has a love for the outdoors. He obtained his medical degree at Loma Linda University, graduating in 2020. He is currently completing his residency in Radiology at University of Pittsburgh.

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