While millions of people use bug bite cream and doctors prescribe products for bug bite treatment, little evidence has been found that they actually work.
A study published in this month’s UK journal, Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin, found that over-the-counter products to treat bug bites including antihistamines, steroids, antiseptics and astringents, are ineffective.
The authors outlined the little evidence on effectiveness of the treatments for bug bites those that aren’t followed by anaphylactic shock or serious infection. Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction which includes hives, wheezing, shortness of breath, unconsciousness, and even death within 30 minutes.
“There is a lack of evidence for the efficacy of these treatments and, in general, recommendations for treatment are based on expert opinion and clinical experience,” the researchers say.
Authors of the study suggested the best management for a bug bite reaction is simple first aid with a cold compress to manage the itching, pain, and swelling, as well as cleaning the affected area to avoid any infection.
Lead researcher David Phizackerley, deputy editor of Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, told Telegraph UK, “For most small insect bites you may not need any treatments. Most bug bites will get better on their own. But if people wish to try them, these drugs have been used for a long time and they are not likely to be harmful if they are used properly.”
Bug bite swelling and redness happens because they inject their saliva into humans. The bugs saliva contains proteins and other substances that can trigger an allergic reaction. That allergic reaction causes itching, redness and swelling at the bite.
Dr Heinz Schneider, pharmaceuticals medical director at Boots, the high street chemist, told Telegraph UK, “Whilst reactions to bites and stings differ from person to person, most people want to have immediate soothing relief and we aim to sell a wide range of medicinal and non-medicinal products that meet these needs. Boots-branded products containing the active ingredients mentioned in the article are all licensed medicines. This means their effectiveness in providing relief for insect bites and associated itching is confirmed and approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.”