Insect bites

Insects that bite do it to get access to your blood as that is what they feed on. Biting insects include mosquitos, fleas, sand flies or midges and bedbugs.

In New Zealand, biting insects do not carry diseases such as malaria, dengue fever or lyme disease, as they do in other countries. But the result of an insect bite is frequently intense itching, as the insect injects a small amount of an anti-clotting substance so that the blood may be fed on more easily. This often develops into a raised reddened lump at the site of a bite, and may also blister. The major problem with these bites is that the itching results in scratching the area, causing infections and sores to develop, which may take some time to heal, and may also cause scarring.

In order to treat an insect bite you need to relieve the itch. There are many preparations available from your community pharmacy that will help to treat the itch, as it may continue for several days after the bite if you are particularly sensitive to that insect.  Often people that are new to an area may have a more severe allergic response to the insects that inhabits that region. Travellers or those on holiday often have a more severe reaction to insects than those that live locally, as an immunity to the insect appears to develop with repeated exposure or bites in the past.

Preparations that your community pharmacist may advise you to use to treat the itch of insect bites include soothing, numbing or mild steroid creams and lotions. If there are many bites, or your reaction is severe, then antihistamine tablets may also be helpful to deal with extended periods of itching. The itch of bites tends to worsen at night when you are in bed and this is when antihistamine tablets are particularly helpful.

As with all preventable conditions, the best treatment of insect bites is not to get bitten in the first place. Regular flea treatment of cats and dogs and good household and personal hygiene will help to remove fleas and bedbugs. It is also helpful to remove or cover pools of water to deter mosquitos.

Your community pharmacist is also able to advise you of suitable products to use to repel biting mosquitos, sand flies and other insects; as well as advise you about how to discourage insects from being attracted to you or your surroundings.