My family has always suffered from insect bite infections but these past few years my son, who is 38, has suffered worse reactions than previously: he has to take antibiotics and has been hospitalised for blood poisoning in his leg. He uses insect repellent all summer but is due to go to the Middle East. Do you have any advice?
Humans come into contact with a wide range of venomous animals and insects. Reactions are generally of two types: the direct effect of venom or poison on the body, as with spider or snake bites, and the indirect effect of sensitisation in the body, as in bee stings. The actual penetration of the skin is usually small and rarely becomes infected except occasionally in snake bites) but the venom produces a local reaction and this frequently becomes infected.
Why some people have more propensity to being bitten than others is not known. It’s commonly believed that those who have more nutrient-packed blood due to diabetes, higher cholesterol, or more urea or protein metabolite (due to excess intake of meats, fats and sugars are more likely to be bitten.
Insect venom contains proteins and enzymes that cause the sting reaction by triggering inflammation and dilation of tiny capillaries in the skin. This prompts the serum fluid in blood to ooze out and flood the area round the sting creating the lump. The fluid contains salt and other substances that cause tremendous itching. Normally, insect bites itch and sting for minutes or hours, but in the case of mosquitoes, for instance, the itching may continue for days.
With bee or wasp stings, the reactions could be different especially if there is a history of previous stings. After the first sting, the protein in the venom can sensitise the body and trigger the defence mechanism into a faulty reaction, so that the next time the person is stung, the body produces an angry, potentially reaction called anaphylactic shock. The throat swells up, together with eyes, lips and bronchial tract, and the heart may stop.
In your family’s case, the inflammation resulting from the insect bites is causing infection. The skin is normally immune to infections from the millions of bacteria that live and thrive on it But if skin is wounded. or if the body’s immune system is generally weak, it loses the ability to defend itself. When you’re run-down, your skin can get infected just from sunburn or a simple cut or pinprick injury.
A good home remedy for an insect bite is to soak cotton wool in vinegar and dab it on the skin immediately. This usually stops the stinging as it destroys the venom by reacting with its protein. You can also use surgical spirit alcohol draws out water, so the swelling will reduce and the venom protein is inactivated. The ‘sting’ can be the source of inflammation and infection, so, using a magnifying glass and sterilised tweezers, locate the small hair-like bristle sticking out and carefully remove it.
To protect your family from being so susceptible to infections, you must build up your immune systems.
* If you’ve been bitten, grate or juice a thumb-size piece of peeled raw ginger, mix with one teaspoonful of manuka honey and take it once a day for a week, to help the body deal with it.
* In general, avoid citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemon), also pineapple, passion fruit, kiwi, rhubarb and mangoes, yeast products, excess salt, coffee, excess alcohol, canned products and shellfish. These make the skin more sensitive.
To help boost the, immune system, take zinc citrate (Biocare, tablets): one daily for two months, and Bio Energy, which contains Indian ginseng : one twice daily for two months.
Try Apis Mel 30 : Suck two twice daily for five days after the bite.
To boost the immune system, get plenty of rest go to bed by l0pm at least twice a week.
Have a neck and back massage to create ‘the feel-good factor’ which plays the important role in boosting the immune system. Also, the neck massage helps to improve the blood flow to the hypothalamus in the brain, the main central controller of the immune system.
Take regular daily walks, swim and do exercise like yoga, to build up stamina and energy, which helps the immune system.