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Allergies

Itchy bug bite reaction

06/23/2004

Question:

Every summer it`s the same old story. I go outside and the next thing I know I`ve been biten by some sort of bug and the itching is just unreal. I try not to scratch but it`s so bad that I can`t help it. I scratch and it makes me quiver inside and I just want to cry! I just can`t take it! Is there a shot I can take to prevent those itchy bug bites? Is this an allergic reaction I`m having? I hate to have to wear bug spray every day just to go outside. Is there any help for this? Thank you.

Answer:

Some people have more severe reactions to bug bites than others. If possible, you should avoid sitting or lying in the grass or going into woods where you would be more likely to get bitten. Wearing pants and long sleeved shirts with socks and shoes when the weather permits (i.e. not too hot) will reduce the amount of bites. Topical corticosteroid creams are helpful at reducing the inflammation and swelling associated with these bites. Over the counter  (OTC) agents are available and sometimes help. However, you may need a more potent topical corticosteroid cream if the OTC agents don’t work that needs to be prescribed by your physician. Insect repellent is helpful as you mentioned and there are now formulations that can be applied like sun block.

Finally, antihistamines such as benedryl and chlor-trimeton will help the itching. If these agents cause fatigue then  there are OTC formulations of non-sedating antihistamines (Claritin, loratadine, Alavert) or you can ask your doctor to prescribe Clarinex, Allegra or Zyrtec. Ice to the site of the bug bite also helps. Allergy injections are not available for the type of reactions you are describing. The only insect reactions that can be treated by allergy injections (i.e. desensitization) are to hymenoptera (yellow jackets, hornets), wasps and honey bee. In southern states treatment for fire ants is also useful. However, people who qualify for this treatment often have severe allergic reactions such as hives, swelling of the face, lips and tongue, wheezing and in the most severe cases dizziness and loss of consciousness. I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

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Response by:

Jonathan   Bernstein, MD Jonathan Bernstein, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati