How to Handle Bug Bites If You Have Psoriasis

It’s officially summer, and that means insect season is buzzing. No one likes getting bitten by mosquitoes, bees, or spiders, but bug bites can be especially troublesome for people with psoriasis.

“Mosquito and other bug bites can aggravate psoriasis symptoms, says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in Omaha, Nebraska.

Tips for avoiding insect bites are the same, whether you have psoriasis or not. Rule number one is to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, especially in bug- infested areas. It also helps to stay indoors at dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Use the Right Repellent

Insect repellents with the active ingredient DEET can reduce the risk of being bitten. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends five chemical repellents, and DEET is the most effective. But DEET can irritate the skin and trigger psoriasis flares. According to Dr. Schlessinger, repellents with a low percentage of DEET are best for people with psoriasis.

“While DEET can be an irritant for those with psoriasis, you can choose anything on the market that contains less than 20 percent and it will still be very effective as a repellent,” he says. Besides applying repellent directly to the skin, you can try spraying your clothing with it.

If you use an insect repellent containing 10 percent or less of DEET, remember that lower concentrations provide less protection. Make sure to reapply repellent every 90 minutes.

Don’t Scratch an Itch

If you still get bitten, avoid scratching an itch because it can make it worse and cause an infection. “It’s important to avoid [scratching] if a bite does occur because, if it becomes infected, it can cause a body-wide flare of psoriasis,” Schlessinger says.

Applying medicated creams containing hydrocortisone or taking antihistamines can offer some relief. Putting an ice pack on the bug bite area for a few minutes at a time can numb the skin and reduce the urge to scratch.

Is It a Bite or Psoriasis?

People with psoriasis should know how to tell the difference between bite- related hives and a psoriasis flare.

Hives are slightly raised, somewhat smoother welts on the skin, while psoriasis is characterized by bumpy, scaly lesions and cracked skin. Hives often appear suddenly, while psoriasis flare-ups are more gradual. Both can cause itching, swelling, and burning pain.

Be vigilant. If it looks like a bite-affected area of the skin is getting worse or may be infected, see a doctor.

If you have psoriasis, consult with your doctor about other summer dos and don’ts. Some psoriasis medications, for instance, increase the skin’s sensitivity to light, so your doctor may suggest changing treatments or recommend avoiding too much sun exposure.

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