Over-the-Counter Bug Bite Remedies Don't Work: Report

THURSDAY April 12, 2012 -- A new report says there is little evidence that over-the-counter insect bite remedies actually work.

In addition, most reactions to insect bites are mild and don't require any treatment, according to the evidence review in the April issue of the British journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.

When insects such as mosquitoes bite a person, the saliva they inject can cause a reaction. In a few cases, this can lead to infection, an eczema flare-up or even anaphylactic shock.

But most insect bites cause only a mild reaction involving itching, pain and swelling, as well as secondary problems caused by scratching the bite. Many over-the-counter products are used to treat these issues.

Antihistamines are widely recommended to ease insect-bite-related itching, but there's no proof that this is effective. That's also the case for steroid creams and tablets to treat itching and inflammation caused by insect bites.

Creams that contain painkillers, anesthetics, antihistamines or antiseptics are "only marginally effective and occasionally cause sensitization," according to the review.

There is some evidence to suggest that diluted ammonium solution may help relieve itching or burning, but there is little evidence that antiseptics or astringents are effective, the reviewers said.

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

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about bug bites and stings.

Posted: April 2012


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