In a recent blog post (Not-so-sweet niblets OUCH. BITES!) I discussed bug bites, and traveling abroad with my sister. To jog your memory, we ended up covered in bed bug bites. Remember that? Well, the part I left out is that we went to the emergency room. Considering that we were across the globe, we wanted to confirm that these swollen, red welts were just bug bites. Upon examination at the ER, the doctor confirmed that the welts were due to bed bug bites. He then offered us a steroid injection to quiet our bodies’ intense reaction to the bites. We said “thanks, but no thanks,” and felt better just with the confirmation that these itchy, swollen, red welts were due to bug bites (rather than some rare, exotic disease).
Generally, insect bites only cause minor discomfort and are not dangerous unless you have a severe allergy to them (or if a bite becomes infected).
That said, you can usually use over-the-counter options to treat bug bites. However, a doctor might also prescribe oral steroids, (or less commonly, a steroid shot to reduce itching and swelling). Check out this link to read about a study which suggests that many people can skip the steroids: https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2017/05/26/hives-study-skip-steroids
Common topical treatments used for insect bites include Itch-X Anti-Itch Gel, and Cutter BiteMD. If you are natural-minded, you may want to know that Itch-X Anti-Itch Gel contains various synthetic ingredients, including iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC), an ingredient that was originally used in the wood & paint industry. In more recent years, it has made its way into many personal care items (i.e. anti-itch products, shampoos) and cosmetics. IPBC is a preservative that is used to prevent mold, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms. In addition to allergy/ immunotoxicity concerns, this ingredient is also a suspected environmental toxin. Click on the following link for more on IPBC’s: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/703111-iodopropynyl_butylcarbamate/.
Cutter BiteMD is another product that is used to reduce itch. This product contains propylene glycol, a synthetic ingredient that you may want to be aware of, especially if you have skin sensitivities. Propylene glycol has shown to trigger allergic reactions in those with eczema and other skin allergies.
If you would like to look up synthetic ingredients that you are not familiar with, here is a great resource for you: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
At the end of the day, it helps to educate yourself. This way you can make informed decisions about what deserves to be applied to your skin, and what is best to avoid.