Bad news for outdoors enthusiasts: A new report finds over-the-counter remedies for simple insect bites don’t work. In most cases, the best option is to simply tough it out.
The report, published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, noted mosquitoes, flies, fleas and bedbugs account for most insects bites. The saliva they inject can cause a reaction, an infection, an eczema flare-up, or anaphylactic shock in the most serious cases -- and these warrant appropriate treatment, said the DTB report.
But in most cases, the reaction is mild, and the best course of action is not to bother with over-the-counter remedies for itching, pain and swelling.
“Although antihistamine tablets are widely recommended to quell the itching associated with insect bites, there's not much evidence to back this up,” the DTB report. Steroids -- creams and tablets -- are recommended for itching and inflammation, but there is no evidence to support their use, except for people with eczema, according to the report.
Creams containing painkillers/anesthetics, such as lidocaine, benzocaine, or combined with antihistamines and antiseptics, are only "marginally effective and occasionally cause sensitization," the DTB said.
"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," concludes the DTB.