If your horse suffers from sweet itch, there might be good news on the way ... eventually. 
According to The Horse Magazine, scientists are looking at a preventive vaccine against Culicoides hypersensitivity. 
For those who don’t know – and be thankful if you’ve never had to look into this – sweet itch or Culicoides hypersensitivity is a seasonal skin condition triggered by the saliva of biting midges, called Culicoides. 
Culicoides usually feed at night, live near water and with more than 1,000 species in the genus they tend to favour different parts of the horse. The most commonly affected areas are the mane and tail, the line down the centre of the belly, the legs, the face and the ears. 
Horses that are sensitive to these midges usually develop one of two types of hypersensitivity: an immediate reaction bringing raised bumps; and a delayed reaction bring signs of itching up to 48 hours after the bite. Many horses have both. While antihistamines can work in the case of an immediate reaction, they don’t work for the delayed reaction. 
However, according to THM, scientists are “working to replicate a purified Culicoides salivary antigen (a substance that induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies), which could potentially become available as a vaccine for commercial use.” 
Another handy tip is to invest in a quality repellent, such as our InsectGard product, rather than an insecticide that reduces the insect burden, but doesn’t stop midges from landing. For horses, like my Mina, that have developed a sensitivity to chemicals, neem oil repellents are recommended. 
As many fly sheets come impregnated with insect repellent, they are also a worthy investment, but they need to be used before sweet itch takes hold. And if your horse needs a fly mask, it’s important to keep it clean and dry to stop any secondary bacterial or fungal infections occurring. 
Clearly, another must-have item in your sweet itch arsenal is the Aqueos Antibacterial Horse Shampoo. This is a gentle shampoo which is pH neutral that soothes itchy skin irritations, fungal conditions and rashes. 
Other ways to help your horse, is to stable them at night, if possible, with fans and insect screens over doors. THM also recommends barn sprayers (see our InfectionGard range) “emitting a permethrin spray at a 0.2%-0.5% concentration.”  As midges don’t breed in manure, pooper-scooping is not a necessity for sweet itch sufferers, but a clean stable is a clean stable and more desirable than a dirty one. Mosquito magnets are also recommended to attract and trap insects looking to feed on your horse. Omega fatty acids in supplement form have been shown to help manage skin conditions and atopic disease. 
The main takeaway, however, is to not let sweet itch take hold. Prevention is key rather than reaction as it’s difficult to turn a horse around once they become susceptible. So, protect your horse’s skin with Aqueos Antibacterial Horse Shampoo, InsectGard insect repellent and whatever barrier is needed to keep them a midge-free zone. 
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