Qld Itch Treatment and Prevention

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Qld Itch Treatment and Prevention in Horses

Horse Insect Bite Hypersensitivity

Insect Bite Hypersensitivity (IBH) is a common problem for horses that live in warmer clients where there are midges known as Culicoides. In Australia this horse skin disorder is called Queensland Itch whilst in other countries it is often referred to as sweet itch and summer eczema. A similar hypersensitivity disorder is also found in dogs, cattle and sheep.

Qld Itch is basically an allergic dermatitis that occurs as a result of the midge bite. It is the most commonly occurring allergy related skin disorder in horses and in Queensland, a whopping 60% of horses are affected.

The disorder is unfortunately a chronic relapsing type – in other words the horses skin problem reoccurs as a seasonal allergic dermatitis, typically in the hotter months.

Signs of Qld Itch

Qld itch can initially look like bumps on the skin (papules). The hair can appear tufted and the skin area can become sensitive. The horse may attempt to scratch or rub the affected area. A secondary infection of the horse’s skin is common, especially if excoriation of the skin and hair loss occurs as a result of rubbing.  Over time the skin can become scaly and thickened.

The symptoms of Qld Itch are often not seen in a horse until it is 2 to 4 years old.

The Eczema Link to Qld Itch

Interestingly Qld Itch or IBH has similarities to atopic eczema, the itchy skin condition seen in humans. Both skin disorders are characterized by the presence of IgE antibodies which mediate an inflammatory response on the skin. IgE antibody production can occur as a result of environmental allergens (e.g. grass, pollen). A staphylococcal skin infection is commonly in found in both disorders plus there is a similar problem with the skin barrier function

Treatment of Queensland Itch (summer eczema)

As Qld Itch is a result of the skins reaction to the saliva of the culicoides midge, treatment of Qld Itch includes:

  • Avoidance of exposure to the midge
    • Whilst rugs can be an effective deterrent against culicoides midge, they are not very effective in protecting skin areas around the head, neck and leg areas. They can also be uncomfortable in hot regions. Some natural repellents for Qld Itch can help to prevent the horse from being bitten by the midge whilst supporting a healthy skin.
  • Negating the effects of the IgE antibody
    • Some natural substances can be applied topically to effectively decrease the effects of histamine and IgE antibodies on the skin;
  • Supporting the skin to improve healing
    • The action of rubbing the skin by the horse can cause skin lesions, infections, hair loss and long term thickening of the skin. Look for a natural product that can support skin repair and promote a healthy looking coat for your horse.

Written by Naturopath and Formulation Chemist, Vivienne Savill

References: Hamza, E, et al. Equine insect bite hypersensitivity:What do we know? Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology; April 2012

About the Author:

The founder of Healthy Skin Clinic is Nurse, Naturopath and Formulation Chemist, Vivienne Savill. Vivienne is passionate about helping people to optimize their health and promoting radiant, healthy skin, using natural treatments.