Tuesday 9 October 2018

Mosquito bites can be cured with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide

I discovered this for myself by using Benzoyl Peroxide 10% as an antiseptic on a mosquito bite which looked as if it would get infected.

A blob of cream onto the bite, then this was covered by a sticking plaster overnight - because Benzoyl Peroxide is a bleach, and will bleach your clothing, bedding or towels if it is not covered, then washed-off carefully.

Within less than an hour, the bite had stopped itching, and the next day it had started to flatten-out - I generally had no further trouble.

To provide context, a mosquito bite will usually last me for 4-6 weeks, and itch for most of that time.

This first accidental experiment seemed promising; so I tried it a few more times over the summer (which was exceptionally warm, humid and mosquito-y), and it works for me as described above. Once I needed an extra second overnight treatment when a bite began itching again.

I've also found a couple of similar experiences reported on the interweb - so it seems pretty conclusive. Mosquito bites can apparently be cured with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide - which product is obtainable without prescription - it is mostly used to treat acne.

Note: I previously reported that BP can also be used to treat shaving rash/ ingrowing beard stubble... 

Note added: In the comments; CCL describes hypothetical possible mechanisms by which BP might work to help mosquito bites. Conventionally BP is supposed to have a dual-action - an oxidising antiseptic in the short-term and and a peeling agent over a few days. But the rapidity of the action I describe, suggests to me that BP is rapidly denaturing the mosquito saliva to prevent its irritating effect, and also disabling the local inflammatory immune response... in some way.  


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Thanks for the tip. For some reason, I myself have no reaction at all to mosquito bites (though in childhood I did get the normal itchy welts), but my wife is often bothered by them. I'll pick up some 10% Benzoyl Peroxide and see how it works.

Hrothgar said...

This is actually a very timely and useful piece of information for me, Bruce, so thanks for posting it.

We have been suffering a plague of mosquitos lately, as the rainy season is begining here, and the flying hordes are swarming out of their hidey-holes and advancing on a massed front. The mosquitos are only part of the insect plague, though the most unpleasant for me personally.

The worst disturbers of our peace besides them are the flying ants and termites, which creep in through the smallest cracks, flap around messily in their death throes all over exposed surfaces and floors, and crawl inside the light covers to die en masse; and the cicadas, who are making the air throb maddingly all night long with sounds ranging from a ghostly foghorn to that of a bandsaw going through a knot, underpinned by the constant high-pitched whine of electronic feedback.

The mosquitos, though, have been biting me raw. They've largely ignored the wife and baby daughter for some reason (though I've just had to chase them out of the office so that I can more easily catch a huge one which just bit the wife several times and is still hanging around). My legs, especially, are so red, scratched and welted after several weeks of it that they look like they have recently lost a prolonged fight with a mid-size feline.

We've just installed mosquito screens on every window, which has kept the worst of them out for a few days, but there are also day-flying mosquitos, mosquitos that wait outside and rush through the door every time it is opened, mosquitos that come for me when I walk the dog in the relative cool of evening, and bite even through my clothes...

Luckily I don't get such a prolonged reaction as you to the bites, but I do get some quite bad ones at times (I think certain species are worse than others), and some appear to be getting infected too. The most effective treatment I've found, especially for the red infected ones, which persist, is the baby's nappy cream. The wife didn't think this would do anything - I suspect it is the zinc oxide content that is helping. Virgin olive oil helps with the swelling and itching too (no other oils seem as effective, interestingly). I will definitely be seeking out some Benzoyl Peroxide ASAP following your recomendation, however!

Bruce Charlton said...

@William and Hrothgar - If possible, please give some feedback on whether this treatment works in your experience. Don't forget that it bleaches and needs to be covered - I don't want you to spoil a favourite shirt or pair of trousers...

Chiu ChunLing said...

Keeping in mind that benzoyl peroxide is only a cure for surface infection, it is a treatment for inflammation.

The promotion of skin cell regeneration is especially helpful.

But the cure for mosquitoes is to kill them all, preferably with lasers.

Jonathan said...

This reminds me of your ketoconazole/dandruff post, Bruce, which I've always remembered as one of the canonical posts of this blog. (Unlike this post, it also goes on to make a point about the ineffectiveness of modern medical research.) That post strikes me as archetypal of the Charlton approach to reality. Thanks for sharing more of your practical wisdom.


Bruce Charlton said...

@Jonathan - Thanks. I pass these things on as they arise - but of course 'science is slow' and there aren't that many I know from personal/ family experience.

One is that Polyfax ointment (Polymixin/ Bacitracin) seems a lot more effective than Fucidin cream for skin infections (infections suspected but not known to be staphylococcal) - but these aren't always avaialble without prescription.

Also (English) Horse Fly bites 'always' get infected - so need to be treated with antibiotics expectantly, as soon as they happen, without waiting for the infection to become established.

In general, when using antiseptics or antibiotics; they work much better (don't get rubbed off, have higher effective concentration) if applied under a sticking plaster (i.e. 'under occlusion') - a blob of ointment or cream on the lesion, and lying under the cloth bit of the paster.

Nathaniel said...

Have you ever tried honey? It sounded backwards to me (sticky sugar?), but I applied a honey-paste to a rather bad burn and it seemed to heal much quicker than expected and prevented infection.

It was the "special" Manuka honey, though apparently there is a lot of fraud with regards to labeling and some claim normal local unprocessed honey is also effective.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nathaniel - Honey is used for open wounds such as wounds, because the high osmotic potential prevents germs growing - but honey is expensive, so c 35 years ago during rounds my surgical boss used to spoon sugar (from the ward sugar bowl) into ulcers to help with healing.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Dentists are always saying sugar promotes the growth of germs. Why is it different in an open wound?

Chiu ChunLing said...

It's different anywhere you don't require survival of your own tissue. Sugar is food for most kinds of cellular life, but toxic to all organic life forms above certain concentrations. That's why bees make honey, the concentration of sugar is too high for microbes to live in the stuff.

It's only when diluted to the point of not causing pain and nausea that sugar can promote bacterial activity. That's why hard candies are more popular than just downing granulated sugar or syrup (though kids will tolerate anything as long as it is sweet), the hardness of the candy acts like a time-release mechanism allowing saliva to dilute the sugar to a tolerable level.

Genuine honey also has specific anti-microbial substances in it, the bees don't rely exclusively on how lethal sugar is in high concentration. That does come into play because sweat and...um, pus will create a boundary of diluted sugar right next to your tissue. So real honey (particularly of certain types) is better than just sugar.

That said, I'm now tempted to go drink some syrup, cause I am still pretty much a kid when it comes to things like that.

Tobias said...

It seems the obvious question to me - Why did you post on something as seemingly trivial as mosquito bite treatment, when this blog usually deals with major spiritual issues?

I know its your blog, and you can write about anything you like, but the juxtaposition of such diverse subjects is a little odd. Having said that, I suppose most 'normal' people would think that any of us who contribute here are round the twist anyway. And from their metaphysical standpoint they are correct - it's just that their standpoint is all wrong of course.

Grateful for the advice though - I was savaged by a cloud of midges yesterday evening as I walked under trees. Perhaps BP will work on midge bites too.


Bruce Charlton said...

@T - The answer is in the title of the blog.

Chiu ChunLing said...

It has also been expanded on before, that truth as such is a major spiritual issue. Medical truths not least, in our era.

I have not been personally aware of any "anti-benzoyl peroxide" campaign insidiously whispering that it has no real benefits against small itchy wounds. But there could well be one, for all I know. Certainly the global campaign against truth generally is too byzantine for me to track all its tendrils.

The other day I watched an 'amusing' video that was ostensibly defending the truth that 2+2=4 (rather than 22), but was rather clearly promoting the outrageous lie that this truth (and all other matters of simple logic) is generally under attack by reactionary forces and only defended by 'liberals'. It would not surprise me at this point if there really were a campaign to keep people ignorant of the benefits of common household medications.

Bruce Charlton said...

" It would not surprise me at this point if there really were a campaign to keep people ignorant of the benefits of common household medications."

There is indeed! Big Pharma funds proxy pressure groups and research that attack cheap, over the counter medications - or exagerrate the relative risks compared with on-patent prescribed drugs. This has been systematic since the 1960s and many useful old drugs have been banned.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, that much I knew, but I hadn't thought of it in terms of attacking even the uses of medicines for which there is no more lucrative alternative on offer.

But thinking about it, I can see that of course this is a forward looking strategy, since part of making a lucrative market opportunity is inflating demand even before a product is on offer. Big Pharma must make people desperate for a cure for something that is commonplace before they can feasibly introduce their high-priced treatment.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Yes, we can't usually know why a product is being attacked, because we don't usually know what is 'in the pipeline'.

In fact the most effective formulation (by common consent) of Benzoyl Peroxide (called Quinoderm) was removed from the market a couple of years ago, and only weaker (5 percent, often aqueous gel cream rather than stronger paste) versions are widely available. (My family can now only get effective BP outside of the UK.)

It seems (from internet and newspaper complaints) that quite a lot of people are now unable to control their acne who previously had good control - so there is more demand for other (and more expensive, perhaps patented) acne products.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I can only imagine the side effects the upcoming prescription medication will feature (and inflict mostly on socially vulnerable young people).

Hrothgar said...

Earlier I bathed our reluctant squirmy dog, who has been suffering for some time from a unknown skin complaint causing patchy hair loss and scaly skin in various places, especially her back, rear end and tail. Some time ago the vet ran some rather expensive tests, didn't find much (Mange and scabies appear to be ruled out), and reached the conclusion that she probably had an allergy or skin sensitivity, for which she prescribed various pricey sensitive pooch pills and lotion. (The wife was intimidated into purchasing some from the vet's pharmacy, rather against her better judgement, as she admitted to me later.)

These predictably had no effect whatsoever on the condition of our over-grown, muscle-bound, slavering guard-hound, who is not all that likely to be subject to the same range of complaints as afflict more delicate canine types, such as the delicate little inbred lapdogs who comprise the majority of her clientele. She thus continued to lose fur, and grow thick scaly patches on various parts of her body, for several months, despite everything we tried and several more consultations. (This did have the bonus of making her even more intimidating than usual to potential intruders, as she appeared to be slowly morphing into some kind of half-reptillian, half-giant bulldog hell-hound; but I digress.)

On the lookout for something new, I recently decided to try out a large bottle of relatively cheap medicated shampoo I spotted at the local pet shop, eschewing the expensive branded doggy shampoo in a small bottle they tried to push on us, which we had already tried to limited effect. The former recommended itself as a broad-spectrum treatment for a wide range of skin conditions, including fungal infections (which I think is her likely problem, despite the vet's inability to diagnose this), and was apparently suitable for a range of animals including horses, cattle, sheep... well, whatever, I thought, probably dogs are somewhere down that lengthy list. I doubt it will actually harm her in any case...

Frankly I was willing to place more faith in potentially efficient cheap products aimed at general livestock than expensive branded ones aimed at pampered pets by this stage. (I did check that there was no mention of it actually being dangerous to dogs before using it, just to make sure!)

After three weekly baths with the new shampoo, fur has grown back almost everywhere and she is looking quite sleek again, while the two remaining scaly patches on her tail are starting to re-fur and look considerably better. I therefore took a closer look at the bottle while bathing her today, to see what the active ingredients were for future reference.

The main active ingredient, naturally enough, was 2.5% benzoyl peroxide.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Hrothgar - useful stuff! Although it does cause sensitivity reactions in some people and presumably animals. The maxim is that anything powerful enough to do good, is also powerful enough to do harm.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, after all, more often than we like to admit, the mechanism of doing good to one thing is doing 'harm' to another. Though in the case of fungus and such, I hesitate to say that it meaningfully prefers being alive to being expunged.

Hrothgar said...

Just thought I would follow up here, as requested, since I've been using Benzoyl Peroxide regularly on bites for the last month or so.

The 10% formulation can still be had here without too much trouble, but none of the local pharmacies seem to stock it, so I went for the 5% (looks like it is an aqueous gel, too, so probably towards the lower/mid range of the efficacy spectrum).

It seems very effective for itching and swelling caused by bites, and normally starts to take effect within a few minutes. Discomfort has normally stopped completely within about half an hour and the swelling subsides within an hour or two. For some of the worst bites a repeat application is necessary after a few hours, but once is normally enough. It seems to also speed up healing, but red marks can still persist for several days even with daily applications (though they do seem to lighten more quickly than they otherwise would). It also seems less effective at healing red marks if applied long after the bite - if applied soon after discomfort is felt, they normally show signs of fading within a few hours, and are nearly invisible in a day or two.

Except for the very worst bites, a miniscule dab of gel is normally sufficient to bring relief. I still have most of the tube left despite it getting almost daily use, usually on multiple bites (sometimes multiple times per day if they have been particularly hungry).

The dog is pretty much back to normal now, having continued to receive approximately weekly baths with 2.5% BP shampoo. I suspect that what she had may have been a variety of Tinea ringworm, or something very similar. It seems there has been some research into BP's effectiveness against fungal skin infections of this type, and positive evidence found. Apparently this did not reach the ears of our vet, who was doubtless too far under the sway of patent medication marketing to notice that something so commonplace and simple might work better.

Neither the dog nor I have yet shown any adverse reactions to its use, by the way.

Hrothgar said...

WRT to the possibly malign influence of Big Pharma on the availability and reputation of cheap, safe and effective drugs:

The wife used to use BP quite regularly to control acne. She used to suffer it quite badly at times, and had tried several medically-prescribed treatments, none of which proved effective for long (or where they did, came with severe side-effects and thus provided no net advantage). She actually heard about BP via word-of-mouth, as no doctor she saw about her acne problem ever even mentioned it to her, let alone prescribed it as treatment. She never suffered any particular reaction to the use of BP, but stopped using it regularly some time ago after being disquieted by seeing a rash of articles in the mainstream and natural health media (many apparently came out around the same time, almost as though there was a coordinated campaign to this end). These unanimously warned that its use could cause all kinds of health problems and side effects - none of which she had ever suffered herself, but this was enough to put her off, especially when she was seeing the same kind of stuff said in the natural health media (which at the time she still trusted to represent a genuine alternative viewpoint) as in the health articles of its mainstream counterpart.

She found a way to control it with natural means (nightly saline wash containing essential oils), and subsequently discovered that pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing were highly effective treatments; these seem in fact to have regulated her hormones, so that she has only suffered occasional mild outbreaks since having our first child.

This discovery would possibly never had been made if she had stuck to the advice of the medical establishment, as she was at one stage prescribed Isotretinoin , which indeed worked against the acne, but had severe side-effects (so she quickly realized she had to come off it, whatever her doctor said) and would have precluded having children at all if she had continued to take it. I saw an article in a prominent outlet of the mainstream media very recently, extolling the virtues of this unpleasant drug, whereupon she told me about her experiences with it.

Apparently it is easier for a highly toxic drug like this to get a positive hearing in the media than a cheap, highly effective one which serves the same purposes and normally has mild side effects, if any. Presumably the fact that the former additionally prevents women from safely reproducing is more of a feature than a bug, to those concerned with shaping public opinion on such matters.