(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
I live in the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee. Since my 11-year-old daughter was 2, we have dealt with her severe reactions to any bug bite. From October through April, she is able to go out and not be bitten; but from May through September, she is a feeding ground for insects.
About a year ago, she was prescribed hydroxyzine (Atarax), because the antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl) did not help. The problem is my daughter, who also has asthma, has the same reaction to all kinds of bugs – wasps, bees, mosquitoes and gnats – but comes out negative on allergy tests.
We have tried every kind of topical cure to fight the itch, but a large red area with a huge water blister in the middle always remains. Even when asleep, she rubs her legs together. Now the doctor has given us a high-dose steroid gel to put on her bites, but she becomes physically ill from it, with a low-grade fever.
When we spent months at my mother’s house in Texas, where it is very dry, she didn’t get a single bite. We are wondering if an Israeli expert can suggest an effective treatment or cure for bug bites; we know that many treatments and inventions have come from Israel.
There must be someone there who can help my daughter find out why she is so tasty to insects!
—S.E., Newport, Tennessee
Veteran pharmaceutical consultant Howard Rice responds:
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Your physician has obviously seen your daughter personally and inspected the bites; therefore, I assume he has full knowledge of the problem. It is possible she attracts insects due to a food she eats or her metabolic odor. For example, after eating curry or another herb, some people have the spice smell emanate from their skin, and this can attract insects. Please look into this.
Not being bitten at her grandmother’s house could have resulted either from a change in eating habits, or the fact that some insects do not live in the Texas climate.
The answer as I see it is prevention rather than cure. I notice the bites are on her hands and legs, which would indicate they bite exposed areas. If she is bitten at night, attach a net over the bed, keeping the lights off in the bedroom until after she is within the net.
If the problem occurs during the day, apply insect repellent every few hours on all of the areas not covered with clothes. Your daughter should refrain from walking in fields or bushes, and remember that perspiration and rubbing removes the repellent.
The repellent should be strong enough to repel all the bugs; this can include diethyl phthalate for short-term use, and N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) citronella and clove oil. In fact, many essential oils are quite effective – even geranium, tea tree and cinnamon – but they all have to be diluted with a bland oil like soya or sunflower. A very extensive list can be found in Wikipedia under “Insect Repellents.” Incidentally, these oils can be left in a saucer overnight to repel insects in the home.
Nevertheless, if your daughter has been bitten and her reaction is severe, the physician’s advice should be followed.
She will need a strong steroid cream; the person applying it should put on a latex glove, so the cream goes into the affected area but not the skin of the fingers. Once the “red wheel” has disappeared, the use of the cream can be stopped.
If she has a blister and the blister breaks, use an antiseptic to prevent infection until it is closed.
Dr. Ziv Bar, director of the integrative medicine clinic at Meuhedet Health Services, adds:
Common mosquitoes need blood for nourishing their offspring, so we help them indirectly every time we are bitten. In children with sensitivities, these bites are not dangerous, but they can swell and appear as shiny red spots or blisters. Deep insect bites can bleed a bit, and sometimes one can see the site of the bite very clearly.
The best thing to do is prevent the bite. A person who attracts insects should in biting season always wear long but light clothing. Aromatic plants such as citronella, eucalyptus and rosemary repel mosquitoes and other types of bugs.
If one has been bitten, wash the area with cool water and soap; heating the area expands the capillaries and intensifies the itching. One can apply various creams or oils such as aloe vera that are recommended by your dermatologist or pharmacist.
Look at the area surrounding your home for wasp, bee and other insect nests or hives, and try to have them removed if they exist. Wasps and bees won’t attack humans if their nests or hives are not threatened. Wasps live off urban garbage and organic food left behind, so clean up the area.
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