When you get a bug bite, the worst part is undoubtedly the itching, and things are even more uncomfortable if you’re dealing with multiple bites at once. While you may be tempted to take a topical Benadryl cream, Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pennsylvania, says she has much better options.
In a recent TikTok, Dr. Zubritsky shared that instead of using topical Benadryl for bug bites, we should use a cortisol cream ($5-$8). The reason? Benadryl is not as effective topically as it is when taken orally.
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Plus, cortisol cream, a form of corticosteroids, does much more than stop itching, adds Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pasadena, California. She says to apply it to the bite twice a day for two days (just be sure to stop after that, because prolonged use can lead to side effects).
“When we get bitten by insects, we are usually more bothered when we can see the reaction and the inflammatory hypersensitivity reaction or we can feel the reaction, which is usually itchy and sometimes painful,” says Dr. Lee. “And all of that is increased by inflammation. So the most effective way to treat it, well, aside from obviously preventing it in the first place, is to target that inflammation. That’s what topical steroids do.”
If you have an insect bite on your face, you should be careful when using cortisol cream.
“On the face, I would proceed with caution. If there’s a big bite or something that’s really itchy or bothersome, maybe treat it for a day or so just because you don’t want to risk inducing perioral dermatitis, which can be quite untreatable from treat”. Dr. Lee says it looks like acne that forms around the mouth, nose, and eyes.
Also, you can develop a less severe form of dermatitis on the face in areas where there is thin skin. “It will show up as a kind of crusty texture or a predisposition to bruising or veins showing through the skin,” she says.
To make sure you can keep your next bug bite under control, stock up on some cortisol cream.
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