Ah, summer. You're sitting outside with pals, enjoying a balmy evening when - bam! - a mosquito crashes the party.
No doubt, every skin type encounters a potential irritant when the bugs come out, but there are things you can do to prevent and treat bites from these unwelcome guests:
- There is evidence that when sunscreen and insect repellents are used together, they may significantly decrease each other's efficacy. To get the most from each product, apply your sunscreen first and wait for it to absorb before applying repellent. Be aware that you will need to reapply your sunscreen more frequently than you would if you were not wearing insect repellent.
- DEET, a common ingredient in insect repellents, has been shown to work for about four hours in concentrations of 20 percent - if you're going to be outdoors for longer than that, remember to reapply. (Check your repellent's directions to learn how often.)
- If you have sensitive skin or are simply hesitant to use DEET-based products, consider citronella, an effective, natural ingredient that deters bugs. You've probably seen it in outdoor candles and lanterns, and you can also find it in topical lotions and sprays.
- If you plan to be outdoors, avoid scented body lotion or perfume, as they will attract more unwanted attention.
- Of course, it's next to impossible to make it through the summer without a bite or two. If you start itching, try licorice. Studies have shown that it has an anti-inflammatory, anti-itch effect similar to cortisone. You can find it in oral supplements or topical lotions (unfortunately, licorice candy won't work). Better yet, it can also soothe irritation from sun exposure.
- Ammonia applied to bug bites? My mother-in-law swears by it. In actuality it swells the skin, making the nerves temporarily "shocked" so it will stop the itching short term. Long term it does not make the bites disappear any faster.
- Antihistamines can also minimize itch, but be sure you stick to oral medications. Topical antihistamine lotions can actually cause allergic reactions - particularly in already-sensitive skin - that will only worsen your discomfort.
If the itch is really bothering you, talk to your doctor. There are several highly effective anti-itch creams available by prescription.