When you’ve got a bug bite, the worst part is undoubtedly the itching—and things are even more uncomfortable if you’re dealing with multiple bites at a time. While you might be tempted to grab a topical Benadryl Cream, Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pennsylvania, says you have much better options.
In a recent TikTok, Dr. Zubritsky shared that instead of using topical Benadryl for bug bites, we should reach for cortisol cream ($5 to $8). The reason? Benadryl isn’t as effective as a topical as it is when taken orally.
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Plus, cortisol cream, a form of corticosteroids, does much more than stopping the itch, 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 bug bites, usually we’re mostly bothered when we can see the reaction and the hypersensitivity inflammatory reaction or we can feel the reaction, which is usually itchy and sometimes painful,” says Dr. Lee. “And that all rises because of inflammation. So the most effective way to treat it—well, besides obviously preventing it in the first place—is to target that inflammation. That’s what topical steroids do.”
If you have a bug bite on your face, you want to be careful when using cortisol cream.
“On the face, I would proceed with caution. If there’s a large bite or something that’s really itchy or cumbersome, maybe treat it for just a day or so just because you don’t want to run the risk of inducing perioral dermatitis, which can be quite intractable to treat.” Dr. Lee says it looks like acne that forms around the mouth, nose, and eyes.
Plus, you can develop a less severe form of dermatitis on the face in areas where there’s thin skin. “It will appear as kind of a crustiness in texture or a predisposition to bruising or for 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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