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Over-the-Counter Treatments for Bug Bites

By Staff Writer

Treatments for bug bitesInsects that bite include mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs and more. Arachnids such as ticks and spiders can also deliver painful bites. See your doctor if you are bitten by a poisonous spider, if you develop a bullseye shaped rash after a tick bite or if you notice signs of infection such as fever, swelling or pus. Seek immediate medical care if you have an allergic reaction and experience difficulty breathing, fainting or extreme swelling. Very few people are allergic to insect bites.

Caring for insect bites

Insect bites are usually a minor nuisance that heal without treatment in a few days. But they can cause extreme itching and discomfort. Scratching or rubbing the bite can cause more irritation and can lead to infection or delayed healing. Anti-itch creams and ointments like hydrocortisone (brand name Cortaid®), calamine (Caladryl®) and diphenydramine (Benadryl®) may help reduce itching and discomfort. Apply up to four times a day as needed. Oral antihistamines such as diphenydramine (Benadryl) can help control itching and swelling. Be aware, however, that antihistamines can cause significant drowsiness, so use caution when driving or operating machinery.

Preventing bites

Protect yourself from bites by wearing long pants, tucked-in shirts, socks and a hat when possible. Avoid mosquitoes by staying indoors in the morning and evening during warm weather. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, apply an over-the-counter insect repellent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency both recommend that people apply insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) and Picaridin (KBR 3023), and when traveling in malaria-prone countries, treating clothing and bedding with permethrin (brand name Repel®). Never apply permethrin directly to skin. Use insect repellents only when outside and wash them off after coming back inside. Avoid getting these products in your eyes, nose, mouth or open wounds and always follow product instructions carefully.


Sources: Balch JF, Balch PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Avery Publishing Group, 1997.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, http://www.cdc.gov/. Last accessed 11/9/2006.Drug Facts and Comparisons, Facts & Comparisons, 2006.Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 2000.Micromedex® Healthcare Series. Thomson Micromedex, 2006.Professional Guide to Conditions, Herbs, and Supplements. Integrative Medicine, 2000.Silverman, H.M., Romano, J., Elmer, G. The Vitamin Book. Bantam, 1999.This answer prepared 6/11/2001. This answer updated 11/9/2006.