Medical Q&As

Insect bites

Can you recommend a safe but reliable insect repellent and a good remedy to treat severe bites that swell up badly? I already take oral antihistamines and still react badly.

The most likely reason for reacting badly to insect bites is that you have become sensitised and react in the form of an acute allergic reaction. It may well be necessary for you to take an antihistamine on a continuing basis to prevent this reaction. Sometimes it may be necessary to see your GP and obtain a prescription for steroids if the reaction is particularly severe. There is a multiplicity of insect repellents on the market but the only ones that are really effective are those containing DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide). This is present in a number of repellents, which are marketed under different proprietary names so you need to check the list of ingredients on the package or alternatively tell your chemist that you want a repellent containing DEET. Also make sure to avoid wearing perfume because the scent can attract insects.