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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Scant Evidence That Insect Bite Remedies Work

Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aegypti) mos...

Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aegypti) mosquito biting a human. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 11 April 2012 article at Medical News Today

A UK review in the April Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) says there is scant evidence that over-the-counter remedies for simple insect bites work, suggesting that in most cases, no treatment at all is enough.

The DTB concludes:

“There is little evidence for the efficacy of treatments for simple insect bites. The symptoms are often self limiting and in many cases, no treatment may be needed.”

Most of the insect bites inflicted on people in the UK are from midges, mosquitoes, flies, fleas and bedbugs, looking for a blood meal.

When they bite, these insects inject saliva into the wound, causing a reaction, such as itching and inflammation.

Some bites can result in infection, an eczema flare-up, or anaphylactic shock. Clearly these reactions warrant appropriate treatment, says DTB, but that is not what their review is about: their beef is with the over-the-counter medications used to treat the vast majority of milder reactions: the itching, swelling, pain, and secondary problems that come from scratching.

For instance, steroid creams have been shown to help people with eczema, but there is no evidence they are effective for the sort of itching and inflammation you get from an insect bite, says DTB.

Also, there is no evidence that steroid tablets work for severe localized and systemic reactions to insect bites, despite the fact they are recommended for this….

…There is little evidence that antiseptics and astringents relieve itching or burning, although there is some evidence that dilute ammonium solution (counter-irritant) helps, says DTB.

As for creams that contain painkillers or anaesthetics like lidocaine, benzocaine, sometimes with antihistamines and antiseptics, DTB says they are “marginally effective and occasionally cause sensitisation”.

DTB suggests that applying a cloth soaked in cold water to the wound is often the most effective way to treat a simple insect bite.

The review does not include treatments for bites from ticks, mites and lice.


April 13, 2012 - Posted by | Consumer Health | , ,

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