You might be better off preventing bites by using insect repellents
While warmer temperatures brings many benefits – bumper crops of summer fruits, meals in the garden and even swimming in the sea – there are downsides too, including the proliferation of biting insects. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water and thrive in warm, wet climates – the number of calls to NHS Direct that related to insect bites rose by 15% from 2010 to 2011. Although mosquitoes in the UK don’t carry diseases such as malaria, bites can cause intense irritation and most of us resort to buying something to try and relieve it. But according to research you may be better off investing in netting and insect-proof clothing rather than an over-the-counter creams which do little to relieve the itch, according to the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. Most insect bites are annoying though they do little real harm, but there’s a huge choice of remedies that claim to reduce the itching, pain and swelling. Scratching a bite inevitably makes it worse, by spreading toxins contained in the insect’s saliva over a wider area, also potentially opening a wound and putting you at risk of infection. So it seems sensible to apply something that might make it easier to resist the itch. But, it seems there’s little evidence to back up their use.
Antihistamine tablets are sometimes recommended to try and reduce the body’s response to the bite, but according to the DTB there’s no concrete evidence to show they actually work. Various creams are also available over the counter – some containing analgesics such as lidocaine and benzocaine – but these are only ‘marginally effective’ says the DTB. Even the anti-itch cream crotramiton, sold as Eurax in the UK, hasn’t been proven to be effective.
With the weather beginning to warm up, mosquitoes will already be hatching – and if you’ve got a pond or live close to an area of still water, you might find yourself inundated with the whining insects. Rather than shelling out on-over-the-counter treatments, you might be better off investing in some protection instead. Mosquito repellents come in various forms, including lotions, patches and noise-emitting devices, but to avoid having to apply chemicals to your skin on a regular basis, you should also wear fine-mesh clothing and consider installing insect screens on windows or doors.