Products in this section fall into one of two categories: preparations designed to help you avoid getting stung, and preparations which are intended to relieve the itching and swelling which follows a sting.

First, the preparations which are said to repel insects and thereby prevent any symptoms developing. Most have no effect on bees, wasps or hornets but are often a help in keeping midges and other small flies at bay. Incidentally, strong scents and bright colours attract insects -that’s why women are often bothered more than men. Yellow seems a particularly popular colour among insects and those brightly coloured anoraks which are so common these days seem to bring the midges swarming.

Repellents are sometimes recommended for use on skin only and sometimes said to be suitable for use on clothing. The reason for this is that some repellents may damage plastics and synthetic fabrics. Whatever you buy, read the instructions carefully.

Effective repellent substances include diethyltoluamide, dimethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate, butylethylpropanediol and benzyl ben-zoate. These substances are available as sprays, wipes, creams, gels and sticks. The following products are among those which contain one or more of these substances and should prove effective: Boots bisect Repellent (gel and spray), Insect Repel Wipes, Mi/ex, Samaritan Anti-midge Cream.

More exotically there is now a device called Anti-pic which is a tiny transmitter that, according to the manufacturers, repels biting mosquitoes within a range of twenty feet.

The theory, which is devilishly cunning, is that since mated female mosquitoes (the type which bite humans) aren’t interested in any advances from male mosquitoes they will be repelled by this transmitter since it makes a sound said to be like the sound of a male mosquito. It is expensive and it has to be kept going with batteries, and the manufacturers do not claim that it repels any other insects. That seems to me to be the greatest drawback, assuming that it actually works. Most of the creatures biting in Britain aren’t mosquitoes.

Once you have been bitten there are many creams, lotions and sprays you can use to minimize the unpleasant effects. Most of them should work.

Calamine cream is an ingredient of Calamine Cream, Calamine and

Anta^oline Cream, Cala^ean Cream, C & M Lotion and Swarm. Plain calamine is also available as Calamine Lotion BP and Calamine Ointment BPC. The calamine helps to cool the skin and I think that calamine creams and lotions are probably the best products to buy.

Antihistamine creams help by combating the allergic reaction which follows a sting. Antazoline hydrochloride is an antihistamine which is present in Ayrtons Insect Bite Cream, Calamine and Anta^oline Cream, Calamine and Anta^pline Cream with Cetrimide, Cala^ean Cream and Cupal Insect Bite Cream. Another antihistamine, mepyramine maleate, is present in Antbical Cream, Anthisan Cream, C <& M Lotion and Wasp-E^e. Unfortunately, antihistamine creams commonly cause skin problems, such as dermatitis.

Other ingredients include cetrimide (an antiseptic) and benzocaine (an anaesthetic). Lanacane contains both types of ingredient. TCP Liquid Antiseptic is also advertised as being useful for soothing the pain of insect bites and stings.

Antihistamine tablets (such as the ones often prescribed for hay fever) may soothe itching and burning which is too severe to be helped by creams .

Anyone who has ever suffered a severe shock reaction after an insect bite should consult a doctor about how to cope. Carrying a supply of antihistamine tablets or even an emergency injection may be a sensible precaution.