It’s vacation time and we’re spending more time outdoors. This means we are exposed to the more annoying and painful aspects of summer – insect bites and stings.

There are many products available at the local pharmacy to treat this. Some treat the initial bite or sting, others treat the itchy aftermath.

What about natural remedies? Few studies have actually looked at them. But if they work for you and don’t irritate already inflamed skin, then it probably can’t hurt to keep going.

Why do insects bite and sting?

When insects bite and sting, they either defend themselves or need something from us (like blood).

Regardless of the motivation, it can cause a painful or itchy reaction, sometimes a severe allergic reaction, or even a debilitating illness.

While insects sometimes get a bad rap, there are relatively few that actually pose a serious threat to our health.

Flies and mosquitoes

Many types of flies, particularly mosquitoes, bite. In most cases, they need blood for nutrition or egg development. The method of “biting” can vary between different types of flies. While mosquitoes inject a needle-like tube to suck our blood, others chew or scratch our skin.

While researchers have been studying what happens when Mosquitoes biteThere is still a lot to learn how to handle the bites.

Therefore, it is especially important to avoid mosquito bites, as some can transmit pathogens that make us sick. We still have a lot to learn about treating mosquito bites.

Fleas, lice, mites and ticks

There are many other insects (like bed bugs, fleas, and lice) and other arthropods (like mites and ticks). this bite.

However, it is difficult to determine which insect has bitten us solely because of the bite reaction. This is generally because different people react differently to this Injected saliva When they start sucking our blood

Bees, wasps and ants

Then there are stinging insects like bees, wasps and ants. These usually just defend themselves.

But the poison they inject when stabbing can not only be painful, but also cause possibly severe allergic reactions.

What’s the best way to handle a sting or bite?

If you have potentially severe allergic reactions Bites or stingsGet appropriate medical treatment right away. For many other people, it’s the initial painful reaction and itchy aftermath that warrants attention.

Despite how common insect bites can be, there are surprisingly little formal research how best to treat them. Most of the research is focused on insect-borne diseases.

Also for recommended treatments, There is little evidence They actually work. Instead, the recommendations are based on expert opinion and clinical experience.

Ice cubes are not only suitable for summer cocktails. They can help reduce inflammation from insect bites and stings. Photo: Alamy

Promote health authorities some general advice for the treatment of insect bites and stings. This includes the use of pain relievers (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen). They also recommend applying a cold compress (such as a cold pack, ice, or a damp cloth soaked in cold water) to the area of ​​the sting or bite to reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort.

There is also specific advice for Dealing with stitches and remove Ticks.

If you don’t do anything, the discomfort from the bite or sting will subside after a few days. The body recovers quickly, just like a cut or bruise.

If you still have pain for more than a few days, or if you have any signs of an allergic reaction, see a doctor.

What about the itch?

As soon as the initial pain subsides, the itching begins. That’s because the body reacts to that Injected saliva when insects bite.

For many people, this is incredibly frustrating and all too easy to get caught up in a cycle of itching and scratching.

In some cases, drugs like Corticosteroid Creams or Antihistamines might help relieve the itching. You can buy these at the pharmacy.

And then there’s Calamine lotion, a mainstay in many Australian homes to treat the itchiness caused by insect bites. But there are few studies that shows that it works.

Do Home Remedies Work?

If you’re looking for a home remedy to treat insect bites and the itchy itching that comes with them, a quick internet search will keep you busy for days.

Possible home remedies These include: tea bags, banana, tea tree or other essential oils, a paste made from baking soda, vinegar, aloe vera, oatmeal, honey and even onions.

There is little evidence for this work. But not many have actually been scientifically rated.

Tea tree oil is one of the few. While it’s supposed to help Treat skin reactionsthe oil itself can cause skin reactions if not used as indicated.

If a home remedy works for you and doesn’t cause additional irritation, there may be no harm in using it if you get relief.

With so much uncertainty about how to treat insect bites and stings, it may be best if we avoid exposure at all. There is lots of insect repellants Available at your local pharmacy or supermarket to do so safely and effectively.

  • Cameron Webb is Clinical Associate Professor and Senior Hospital Scientist at the University of Sydney. Webb and the Medical Entomology Division, NSW Health Pathology, have been hired by a variety of insect repellant and insecticide manufacturers to conduct product testing and provide expert advice on mosquito biology. Webb has also received funding from local, state and federal agencies to conduct research into the monitoring and management of mosquito-borne diseases.

  • This article originally appeared on The conversation.