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No treatment needed for insect bites, say experts

GPs should advise patients that no treatment is needed for most insect bites, as most over-the-counter treatment ‘show little efficacy', say experts.

A BMJ evidence review of current data for antihistamines, antipruritics and local anesthetics found little evidence for their use after an insect bite and that most insect bite symptoms were self-limiting.

The report recommends mild local reactions are cleaned and treated with a cold compress. Oral analgesics can be used for pain and a mild corticosteroid cream applied to reduce inflammation and itching. Large local reactions can be treated with an oral antihistamine, says the authors.

The authors also recommend not using antibacterial treatment for simple insect bites, but secondary infections should be treated with an oral antibacterial agent in accordance with local guidelines.

Dr Rubin Minhas, clinical director of the BMJ Evidence Centre said: ‘Many preparations for the treatment of insect bites, including antihistamines and topical corticosteroids, are available for purchase over the counter in the UK.'

‘However, there is a lack of evidence for the efficacy of these treatments and, in general, recommendations for treatments are based on expert opinion and clinical experience.'

DTB, online April 2012         

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