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Insect bite remedies don't work

Apr 14th, 2012
Staff Writer

There is a sore lack of scientific evidence that over-the-counter bug bite remedies work to stop an itch, swelling, pain or irritation, said the authors of a new study, published in this month's edition of Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.

Saliva from insects causes the reaction in the skin. In most cases, the problems are minor, although bothersome. Many people try antihistamines for relief, but there is little proof they work. Steroids are also used, but there is no evidence steroids help except for people with eczema. Experts note that steroids should only be used sparingly and not on the face or on broken skin.

Creams containing painkillers or anesthetics, such as lidocaine, benzocaine or combined with antihistamines and antiseptics, are only "marginally effective and occasionally cause sensitization," the authors said.

While there is some evidence to suggest that diluted ammonium solution may help relieve itching and or burning, there is little evidence for antiseptics or astringents.

People who have a severe reaction to a bite or an eczema flare-up should seek immediate medical care.  But, the authors wrote of over-the-counter cures: "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."

Gee, thanks.