The straw gnat is a common insect in various parts of the world, from North America to South America, which tends to live near water bodies and bite its victims in search of blood. These stings cause itching, redness and swelling - all because of reactions that occur in histamine. As such, there are several creams and antihistamines that help to treat the symptoms. You can also take steps to prevent mosquito attacks. Just be very careful: in rarer cases, the insect is capable of transmitting leishmaniasis, which needs medical attention. Study the article below and find out more!
Method 1 of 3: Relieving the Annoyance of the Straw Gnat
Step 1. Put ice in the area or try other household solutions
Because the straw gnat is so common in many parts of the world, it's not hard to find remedies and other home remedies with a simple internet search. Some people, for example, usually put ice packs on the bite site for up to ten minutes every hour.
- In fact, using ice packs seems to be the most effective method to alleviate the itchiness of many insect bites.
- There are other interesting options for remedies and solutions: aloe vera gel, blue toothpaste, minty ointments (like Vick VapoRub), tea tree oil diluted in a base oil, baking soda paste with water, oatmeal bath, etc.
Step 2. Apply a hydrocortisone cream to the sting site
A good over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can help reduce the pain and inflammation of mosquito bites and other insects. You will need to follow the instructions on the package insert at the time of application, but in general it is enough to apply some of the cream directly to the affected area - but not on healthy areas of the skin.
Do not use hydrocortisone creams for more than seven days unless it is a doctor's recommendation
Step 3. Apply an antiseptic, anti-itching or soothing lotion to the bite site
You can buy a number of products made specifically to alleviate insect bites, although there aren't as many studies that point to their effectiveness. Try different lotions for two or three days at a time and see if you see results.
- Always follow the package insert instructions to the letter, but contact a doctor before starting any treatment if you have any questions regarding the lotion.
- You can also try a gel that contains 2% lidocaine or 1% hydrocortisone.
Step 4. Try an antihistamine lotion or capsules if the itching is severe
The itching associated with mosquito bites is caused by the reaction of histamine in the body to the insect's saliva in the wound. So apply a drop of a topical antihistamine to the spot and see if there are any results. Read the package insert for correct frequency of use.
- If you have had several gnat bites, it is best to take the antihistamine by mouth. Try 10 mg of cetirizine or loratadine, for example - and once again follow the instructions on the label to the letter.
- You can buy over-the-counter topical or oral antihistamines at drugstores, but it is always best to consult a doctor before starting any treatment.
- As with other over-the-counter medications used to combat insect stings, there are no studies that support the effectiveness of topical antihistamines.
Step 5. Apply calamine lotion to the bite
Shake the tube of calamine lotion and apply some of it to a cotton swab. Then spread the product on each gnat bite and wait two or three minutes before putting any clothes on. Allow the lotion to work for up to three hours and finally remove it with a damp cloth. Repeat this application when necessary.
- Follow the package insert or physician's directions regarding the use of calamine lotion.
- Stop applying lotion immediately if you develop any signs of irritation or other skin problems.
- Reinforcing: there is no evidence to attest once and for all to the effectiveness of calamine lotions in combating straw mosquito bites.
Step 6. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if the stings are painful
Ask your doctor if you can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These medications help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Again, take them according to the package insert.
If your doctor does not recommend NSAIDs for you, ask them if you can try acetaminophen
Step 7. Don't scratch the bite site
As much as scratching the sting site feels good, you will only increase the risk of making the problem worse - as it can tear the skin and lead to the proliferation of bacteria (which, in turn, are capable of causing serious infections).
- Pay close attention to the location of the bite. Go to the emergency room if it becomes more swollen or red, if the temperature in the area rises, if your skin has any discharge, or if you have a fever.
- If the bite becomes infected, you may need to take topical or oral antibiotics.
Method 2 of 3: Avoiding Straw Gnat Bites
Step 1. Cover your skin with light colored clothing
Of course, the gnat will not be able to sting your skin if it is not exposed! Make it a habit to wear long shoes and socks, and wear longer-sleeved pants and shirts, and keep the hem of them to limit access to your body. You can also try lighter colors that keep insects away.
Be extra careful on your feet, ankles and shins, which are the places that the gnats most often attack. Don't leave any gaps between your garments
Step 2. Avoid any body of water between sunset and sunrise
Most straw mosquitoes live within 10 m of water bodies (sea, rivers and lakes). Also, they are usually most active between sunset and sunrise. Avoid these conditions and you will have much less risk of suffering attacks.
Not all types of gnat behave like this. Some are more active in the middle of the day, for example. If possible, familiarize yourself with insects from any new region you may be experiencing
Step 3. Apply a repellent that contains DEET when you expose yourself
Follow the label directions for applying repellent to exposed skin, concentrating more on the areas below the knees. You can also spray the product on the ends of clothes, such as the hems and sleeves - but remember that they can leave stains on the fabric.
- Insect repellents that contain DEET (the popular name for the chemical compound N, N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) don't hurt children, but you'd better use as little volume as possible. If necessary, use a product that contains only natural ingredients.
- Although DEET repellants are the most effective at fighting the gnat, you can try alternative, natural products.
Natural repellents, such as those made with oil of rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, citronella, cloves, geraniol, peppermint, castor beans, or soy, are not as effective in preventing gnat bites as those containing DEET.
Method 3 of 3: Treating Leishmaniasis
Step 1. Understand your risk of getting leishmaniasis
Leishmaniasis is an infection caused by parasites that enter the body through bites from infected insects such as the straw mosquito. Although the condition is rare in many regions of the world, such as parts of Europe and North America, it is still common in others. Unfortunately, this is the case in Brazil.
- In addition to Brazil, leishmaniasis caused by straw mosquito bites also occurs in other regions of South America, Central America, the Middle East and parts of Europe, Africa and Asia.
- If you live in a high-risk area (like many regions in Brazil), it's best to take certain steps to avoid gnat bites. Follow the steps in the previous method: wear long clothes, apply repellants with DEET and avoid bodies of water between sunset and sunrise.
Step 2. Watch for signs of visceral or cutaneous leishmaniasis
Cutaneous leishmaniasis is much more common, being marked by red bumps on the skin and sores that release secretions. See a doctor if you notice anything like that at the bite site.
- Visceral leishmaniasis (also known as kala azar) is rarer and is marked by an infection of the internal organs. Instead of paying attention to signs at the bite site, keep an eye out for symptoms such as fever, sudden weight loss, and extreme tiredness. In that case, your doctor will order blood tests to see if there is any serious damage, and to determine if your spleen or liver is swollen.
- If you have these symptoms but have not had contact with gnats or other insects, it is more likely to be another type of infection. Go to the ER anyway.
Step 3. Discuss possible treatments for cutaneous leishmaniasis with your doctor
In most cases, cutaneous leishmaniasis is cured in a matter of weeks or months - which does not require active treatments. On the other hand, the doctor may recommend specific medications for the situation.
- Some types of cutaneous leishmaniasis, particularly those common in South America, can spread to the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and throat. If it happens to you, get treatment as soon as possible.
- Most cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis do not cause long-term problems, but can lead to scarring at the site of lumps and wounds.
Step 4. Start treatment right away if you have visceral leishmaniasis
As visceral leishmaniasis affects vital internal organs such as the liver, you need treatment as soon as possible. The first line of action will probably be to take some medications, but it may be necessary to undergo surgical interventions and even organ transplants.