Are Over-The-Counter Bug Bite Treatments Useless?

Trying to ease that itch after a muggy night outside with hungry mosquitos? Reaching for the anti-itch cream you got at the drugstore might not do much for you, according to a new report that looked at the over-the-counter remedies we most often pick up for bug bites.

Time.com says the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin released a report that said after reviewing the evidence, OTC creams and antihistamine pills don’t do as much for us as we think when slathering them on and swallowing them down.

The study also found oral topical steroids to not have enough evidence in helping treat inflammation from bites.

“We didn’t find much published evidence for the various medicines that are used to treat simple insect bites,” says David Phizackerley, the deputy editor of the DTB. “Guidance on the management of simple insect bites is based on expert opinion rather than direct evidence from clinical trials.”

For the most part, say the study’s authors, many of the symptoms we experience from bug bites are “self-limiting,” and no treatment might be needed at all. The DTB says antihistamine tablets won’t do much, and their topical treatment counterparts are “only marginally effective, occasionally cause sensitization, and…use for longer than three days is not recommended.”

The study shows a lack of medical evidence — not that treatments definitely don’t work or that you should stop using them, especially if a doctor has suggested their use.

Their advice on insect bites:

For mild local reactions, the area should be cleaned and a cold compress applied. Oral analgesics can be given for pain, and a mild corticosteroid cream applied to reduce inflammation and itching. Large local reactions can be treated with an oral antihistamine. Non-sedating antihistamines are preferred during the day, but a sedating antihistamine can be of use at night if sleep is disturbed. Antibacterial treatment is not required for simple insect bites, but secondary infections should be treated with an oral antibacterial agent in accordance with local guidelines.

Are Over-the-Counter Bug Bite Treatments Useless? [Time.com]