Friday, August 13, 2010

Stopping the itch of bug bites

Okay, this is not exactly Ladies Home Journal or Martha Stewart's Whole Living, but I have recently been dealing with a small matter of fleas on Max. I had been wondering why I would occasionally have a few inexplicable bites that itched madly but were apparently inflicted by invisible bugs.

I have googled itchy bites, invisible bugs, mites, whatever word or combination of words I thought might explain these occasional fleets of itchy bites. Some of them I could tell were mosquito bites, which have (at least on me) a distinctive whitish bump that itches. Others, however, were tiny, in very odd places, and only distinguished by a small raised red bumpito that itched madly.

Until Max's recent trip to the vet for his leukemia booster, I had not thought they could possibly be fleas, as I have never seen a flea on him or any of the other cats, nor in the bedding or favorite spots where he lies. The other two cats had been declared free of fleas earlier this month, but Max turned up with a few fleas.

Aha! Googling flea bites produced images that were clearly the same as my bites, so we are taking steps to eradicate the critters. Which brings me to something useful I discovered long ago when I was trying to deal with itchy bites.

The People's Pharmacy is a newspaper column that is a kind of clearing house for both natural and allopathic health remedies. People will write in about a bar of soap curing their night time leg cramps or the evils of various drugs, Vicks for fungus-y toenails, that sort of thing. And one day, somebody mentioned heat as a temporary cure for itchy bites.

I jumped on this one, because no over the counter product, even antihistamines, had done anything to make the itch go away, and I did some experimenting. There were some fairly inconvenient ways of applying heat, like with a hair dryer, and it would be easy to get burned if it got too hot. But it needed to be pretty high heat in order to quell the itch, not just make it itchier.

Here's what I do. I keep an old stainless steel teaspoon in the bathroom and when I need to stop an itch, I turn the hot water on, let it run till it's so hot I can barely stand it, then stick the spoon into the running water for a few seconds. Then I apply the back side of the spoon directly to the itchy bite and hold it there while the itch flares up briefly and then dies away. This works like a charm and eradicates the itch for me for several hours. If the bite is on my back, I use a few seconds of very hot shower water. But the effect is the same.

So I may have fleas temporarily, but I can deal with the itch. I hope this public service announcement has been helpful.


SC Universalist said...

Didn't know the People's Pharmacy was a newspaper coloumn, and since you didn't mention their radio show (on many pbs stations), loet me do so - and I see they have a website.

By the way, my favorite method of removing fleas from humans in drowning them (in oceans, lakes, pools, hot tubs, bathtubs) - I've found this an effect method for years. I will say that most cats don't like it though.

Steven Rowe

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Steven, for mentioning other venues for the People's Pharmacy. I've only encountered them in the newspaper, though I have also used the website.

Yes, I suspect Max would not enjoy being de-flea-ed by the water method!

kimc said...

And the water method takes a while, as the little critters carry a bubble of air with them initially.
Your heat method sounds less messy than applying toothpaste, which does work.

Joel said...

Have you tried clove oil? It's wonderfully effective at killing the itch from bug bites. As long as you haven't broken the skin by scratching, that is. If you apply it to broken skin it stings something vicious.

If you can't get clove oil (I get mine at Rite-Aid), a paste of ground cloves from the kitchen will work. It's not as effective as the oil, but it will at least take the edge off so you can let it heal.

ms. kitty said...

Lots of helpful suggestions! Thanks, all.

I'll stick with the heat method for myself.