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Dr. Alan Greene on an Allergy to Insect Bites

Question

My 3-year-old seems to be allergic to every type of insect bite. Is there some sort of treatment that will enable her to lead a normal life without having to carry Benadryl around?

Answer

Some kids certainly have allergic reactions to insect bites (my daughter is one of these). Some of these allergies can be decreased or eliminated over time with allergy shots and some will decrease as children grow.

In the meantime, the main things to do are to try and decrease the number of bites and to decrease reactions when they are bitten. Benadryl is a strong antihistamine, but has the downside of affecting children's behavior (makes most drowsy, some hyper) and learning. I like using a nonsedating antihistamine instead, when practical, such as Zyrtec. A hydrocortisone cream can be used in addition to the antihistamine. You can also try calamine lotion and Aveeno baths.

DEET is the most effective insect repellant, but unless you are in a high-risk area or unless the child is very allergic, I prefer gentler insect repellents for children. Skedaddle and Avon's Skin-So-Soft both work well for some kids.

Some studies suggest that taking 25 mg of thiamine (vitamin B1) three times a day is effective in reducing bites right after being bitten. Cool compresses, an antihistamine, and an anti-inflammatory medicine such as Children's Motrin taken early on may prevent the reaction from developing as much as it would.

The simplest anti-itching compound is a paste made of baking soda and water. Use just enough water to make a sticky paste and spread it on. Calamine lotion works in a similar way, and usually the effect lasts longer.

 

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.