Sweet Itch

What is sweet itch?

Sweet itch is an allergic reaction to the bite from midges. The majority of horses don’t react to the bite but those who do, suffer from an irritable and often painful reaction to the bites. Reactions to the bites are most commonly itching, rubbing and biting at their skin, causing hair loss, bleeding and thickening of the skin.

How is sweet itch treated?

There are many anti-sweet itch skin creams and lotions available;  e.g. Neem Oil. The majority of these are combinations of repellents and insecticides. Creams and lotions usually need to be applied generously at least once daily.

Shampoos and lotions that contain calming ingredients, such as lavender, tea-tree oil or chamomile, can help soothe the skin and lessen the need to itch. 

If symptoms persist / or cause concern you should call a vet as they may be able to suggest a specific cream or prescribe steroid drugs to help in severe cases. 

How to prevent sweet itch?

Fly masks and fly rugs can lessen the chance of the equine being bitten, but midges still can attack uncovered areas and/or may also get under or through the rug.

Avoid turning out in areas close to still water or woodland areas as this is where midges will thrive the most. Also, avoid turning out at dawn or dusk as this is when midges are most prevalent.

Turning out and/or riding on blustery days is better than calm days, as midges can’t remain airborne in winds above 5mph. 

Use fly repellents to deter the midges. Products containing DEET, pyrethroid, and permethrin-based ingredients are often the most effective. Avon Skin-so-Soft is a less harsh option for repellent in terms of chemicals, but should not be used on sunny days as it can cause sunburn. 

For more advice and support, please email our Equine Team on equine@oaktreeanimals.org.uk 

Sweet Itch

Sweet Itch

Sweet Itch

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