How to treat insect bites like dermatologists do at home

Admit it, you are delicious. That’s why bugs swarm around whenever you’re close, and why a few hours in the fresh air can make you feel like an easy target for any creepy crawler that’s buzzing. When you come home and see all those red marks, you know that itchy, uncomfortable days are waiting for you.

Even though they know a lot about the skin, dermatologists also get insect bites. Here’s what they say about dealing with an uncomfortable situation now and perhaps avoiding it in the future.

Damn! Why am I so itchy?

“When an insect bites our skin, it injects a small amount of saliva and this triggers an immune response,” said the dermatologist and Maei MD Skincare founder Rebecca Marco. “Histamine, the chemical that causes inflammation and itching, is released as a signal to the body to send white blood cells to fight the offending agent.

Basically, said dermatologist Jeannette Grafclinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, “Your skin is mounting an immune response to a foreign substance.”

What can I do? (And what should I avoid?)

First, be patient. “The itch can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, depending on how strong your body’s reaction to the bite is,” said the dermatologist. Joshua the draftsman, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

“I recommend applying a topical steroid cream as soon as possible,” Marcus said. Another easy way to feel better early is to get close to the freezer. “Ice can help a bite temporarily feel better by narrowing superficial blood vessels and decreasing inflammation,” he explained.

Graf suggested some home remedies, including aloe vera. “She has anti-inflammatory properties that can help relive the itch,” she said. Another of her favorite treatments are baking soda baths. “They are great if you have multiple insect bites. Baking soda has anti-inflammatory properties and will relieve itching for some time. “

What should i avoid doing?

Even if you are looking for something, anything, to get rid of the itch, keep in mind that some things may be a bad idea. Dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare, warned against applying heat to the area. “It will increase the redness, swelling and itching,” she said. “Also, don’t apply polysporin or other antibiotic ointments. These often cause allergic reactions and can actually make the bite worse instead of improving it.

And, while we’re on the not-to-do list, you know you shouldn’t scratch, right? “You can cause an open wound and increase the likelihood of developing an infection,” Zeichner said.

When should i see a doctor?

“If you’re unhappy to the point of not being able to sleep, a dermatologist can help you by providing a prescribed steroid cream or oral medication to relieve the itch,” Marcus said.

“If you’re developing significant swelling beyond the initial bite area, or have difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately,” Zeichner said.

“See a doctor if you develop a fever, which could mean the bite is infected,” Graf said. “If the bites are blistered and numerous, that’s also a sign to see a doctor.”

“If it’s been four or five days and the area is getting worse instead of improving, see a doctor,” Ciraldo said. “If you see a red streak emerging around the area, it can mean an infection getting into your blood, usually from excessive scratching.”

What can I do to avoid it next time?

“Use insect repellent,” Marcus urged. “I swear by Fisherman’s Formula (featured below), whose active ingredient is picaridin.” Studies have shown picaridin to be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes. Unlike DEET, however, picaridin is odorless, non-greasy, and does not dissolve plastics or other synthetics.

Here are some of the products recommended by dermatologists.

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Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula insect repellent

“I’m a mosquito magnet and I swear by this brand, which has picaridin as an active ingredient,” Marcus said.

Aveeno hydrocortisone anti-itch cream at 1% maximum strength

“To reduce inflammation and itching, you can apply an over-the-counter anti-itch cream like this one,” Zeichner said.

Benadryl antihistamine

“If you have several bites and are really unhappy, you may want to take an antihistamine drug to ease the immune response,” Marcus said. “The sedative effect of some antihistamines can be a welcome relief before bed if the itch keeps you awake at night.”

Aquaphor Full Strength Itch Relief Ointment

“My favorite thing about insect bites is to apply ice, followed by this product,” Ciraldo said.

Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced repairing lotion

“I usually recommend applying moisturizers to insect-bitten skin to maintain skin barrier function,” Zeichner said.