Vitamin C and Inflamed Skin (Bug Bites, Spider Bites, Mosquito Bites, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak)
Advocates claim that vitamin C reduces the duration and severity of common skin inflammations like those caused by bug bites, spider bites, mosquito bites, poison ivy, and poison oak. There is good scientific reason to believe this is true, since vitamin C is proven to be beneficial for treating burns. I believe it is true, because I used to be sensitive to poison ivy. Suffering with poison ivy was a normal part of summer before I started taking vitamin C. I still get poison ivy, but I don’t believe I get it so often or that it bothers me as much when I do get it.
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Taking >5000 mg/day of vitamin C remains unusual. One problem is that the benefits from vitamin C tend to be imperceptible. Why put up with the aggravation (swallowing lots of big pills, and the minor discomforts of the intestinal tract)if the benefits are imperceptible? Most people, myself included, would like more obvious, positive feedback. Vitamin C has been most successful as a treatment for colds, because many users report feeling obvious benefits. I’ve written in other columns that combining vitamin C and niacin to fight colds results in benefits that are significantly more perceptible. From the feedback I've gotten, others agree with me and are more motivated to take vitamin C to fight colds.
Many people are healthy and don’t suffer from colds. Many people suffering from colds take vitamin C and don’t perceive sufficient benefits to persuade them to keep taking it. Other obvious benefits would help persuade the general public of the value of vitamin C.
Almost everyone I know gets bug bites, spider bites, mosquito bites, poison ivy, or poison oak at least once per year. In his 1971 paper, Fred Klenner (type Fred Klenner into Google and it pops up) reports that large daily doses of vitamin C reduce the severity of mosquito bites. How did he know? How could this be tested? Much of Klenner’s paper focused on large injections of vitamin C into the blood stream. Toddler’s veins were too small for Klenner’s injections, so he injected them in the rear end. Thinking about Klenner's efforts inspired the following idea.
Injections can be used to localize the impact of vitamin C. When I suffer from poison ivy, poison oak, or mosquito bites, I usually experience them in multiple locations of similar severity. If vitamin C can make a big difference in healing this kind of wound, then local injections are a way to make the difference obviously perceptible. Inject just milliliters of a concentrated vitamin C solution (sodium ascorbate) just under the skin at half the mosquito bites or one end of a patch of poison ivy. If the experts claiming that vitamin C is tremendously beneficial for this type of wound are right, then the treated areas of skin will heal much more quickly than the untreated areas of skin serving as controls.
I’m going to try this idea. Another reason I’m motivated to try is because I’ve long been interested in IV vitamin C therapy. I’ve read Klenner’s paper many times with fascination. Getting 20 gm doses of vitamin C by IV from a physician has always seemed scary and fantastical to me – something I would only do if I was dying. Most of the experiences related by Dr. Klenner are amazing responses of deathly ill patients. I can hardly imagine being either a patient or a physician in such an emergency.
The idea about mosquito bites is not scary to me at all. I’ll get my physician to use a tiny needle and inject less than 1 cc of vitamin C solution at the site of just a couple of bug bites. It will be just like getting the flu vaccine or Novocain at the dentist. It won’t be any different than the multiple friends I have that inject themselves with insulin every day. Perhaps more importantly, I’ll be capturing my physician’s interest in vitamin C injections. If it works on my bites, perhaps my physician will try larger vitamin C injections for more serious insect bites, small second and third degree burns, cases of hives, and other skin disorders.
The effectiveness of vitamin C for mosquito bites, poison ivy, and poison oak can be put to the test. The importance of the test isn’t about these common skin problems. The tests are important because they may provide users and physicians with obvious evidence that vitamin C works when used locally in high concentration. If patients taking several thousand mg/day of vitamin C by mouth get further benefit from local injection of concentrated vitamin C directly at a mosquito bite, the paradigm that 1 RDA is enough will be that much more difficult to sustain.