Synthol: Miracle French pharmacy product for bug bites

Written by Diane on. Posted in France, on life in France

Do mosquitoes feast on you when the weather gets warm? If so, we’re in the same boat.

Over the past couple of months or so, I’ve gotten some of the worst mosquito bites of my life. They swell up, get painful and red, the skin around them gets hard, and then they form a liquid blister that eventually breaks and crusts (the pics below aren’t even the worst ones). Oh, and they itch like mad. This never used to happen, though.

After a visit to the doctor last month and a 10-day course of antibiotics, I was left kind of hopeless as we head into the summer season. I already have a bug net for my bed, but what else could I do? Use Synthol, that’s what. This new-to-me product available at the French pharmacy is a miracle product for bug bites, so if you’re susceptible to all the creepy-crawlies, you’ll want to read on. Maybe it can help you.

Synthol french miracle product for mosquitoes

GO!

Synthol: Miracle French pharmacy product for bug bites

This season, I seem to have developed an allergy to mosquito bites. Instead of the normal welt and redness, it now goes way beyond that. I have gotten a bad bite every couple of weeks for the past two or so months now (and of course, Tom hasn’t gotten a single one). Regular mosquitoes are annoying enough, but what I’ve been experiencing goes far beyond the realm of normal.

synthol france mosquito bites

So why do the bugs like me? No idea. We don’t live far from a park that has a little stream running through it and it seems to be more humid where we are, so it’s possible the bugs just like to hang out here (although I rarely see them). The last straw was when I got two bites side by side on my arm and finally sought out the advice of a doctor who then prescribed me antibiotics to clear up the infection that had developed. Anti-itch creams just weren’t cutting it.

That was the second to last straw actually. The real last straw was a couple of days ago when two bugs bit the side of my face. It’s one thing to have a bad bite on a body part you could easily conceal (no walk in the park, but easier to handle) and another thing entirely to have to face the world with a face that turns people’s heads for all the wrong reasons.

Long story short, my cheek became swollen, red, hard to the touch, and super itchy. It looked like I had a bad sunburn on only one side of my face, or like I had gotten punched. I could feel it pulsing just sitting here at rest.

Differences between pharmacies in France and the USA >>

Why such an extreme reaction?

Apparently there’s something called Skeeter Syndrome which basically means you react badly to insect bites, or more specifically to certain proteins in the mosquito saliva. This can come about at any time and for no particular reason, but it is common among people who live abroad and haven’t developed immunities to the bites of certain species of mosquitoes in their new home. Why this took 5 years to start happening is beyond me, but anyway.

I should really listen to my husband more often and not only when I’m desperate.

After the first couple of bites of the season, Tom said that I should put Synthol on them. Being unfamiliar with the product and overwhelmed by the bug bite situation and all the products in the pharmacy, I ignored him and kept cleaning it with a disinfectant, taking a Benadryl type of product, and putting on the hydrocortisone cream on it. I should have listened to him sooner!

I finally gave in and bought some Synthol because my face was still really bad. As someone with very sensitive skin, I was nervous to put a product on it that I wasn’t familiar with, but I’m so glad I sucked it up and just did it. Synthol immediately cooled my bites and didn’t irritate my skin. Today, I woke up with a 90% normal face. I can go out in public without makeup and no one will know that just 12 hours ago, I looked like a hot (literally) mess.

Weird French pharmacy products >>

synthol miracle for mosquito bites

So what is Synthol?

It’s a light yellow analgesic liquid product created in 1925 that’s used to treat bruises, insect stings of all kinds and other trauma to the skin — like if you whack your leg on your desk walking by (never happened to me, just saying. ;-)). I think of it as a miracle product and use it predominantly for mosquito bites. The odor is medicinal but not off-putting. Back in the day, its formulation was a little different and was even used as a mouthwash.

The ingredients are (en français):

Substances actives : Acide salicylique, Lévomenthol, Résorcine, Vératrol Excipients : Cèdrat essence, Eau purifiée, Éthanol à 96 %, Géranium essence, Jaune de quinoléine

It’s not to be used on young kids under 7 years of age, those allergic to salicylic acid, etc. so read the packaging if you have any concerns.

How to apply Synthol

You generously wet a cotton round with the product and apply to the affected area for several minutes. I do this several times per day when I have a bad mosquito bite and find that it helps immediately. Even after just one application, it takes the swelling down by half overnight. It seems to dry up the bite and not just soothe it. Bye bye, dinky Benadryl anti-itch pen. Synthol is the real deal.

Where to buy Synthol

At your French pharmacy. The product was hard to find for two years up until last summer due to a rupture in stock at GlaxoSmithKline, but now it’s everywhere.

About the mosquito situation

Summer means bugs and there’s no way to escape them, but I can take some precautions. The French don’t do window screens but I sure AF do. I’m duct taping screens to my window frames if I have to and have already set up my mosquito net that goes around our bed. I also bought a special spray for around the bed and windows and will be testing every anti-mosquito product the pharmacy has. Bugs, be warned, I’m coming for you!

***

Wishing you a bug-free summer. Stock up on some Synthol just in case! Ever tried it?

If you’re in the US and can’t find it, message me and maybe I can get some to you.


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synthol french pharmacy product for bug bites  

Disclosure: This post isn’t sponsored in any way. I happily buy my Synthol and wholeheartedly stand behind the product.

 
Lou Messugo
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Comments (29)

  • Taste of France

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    I find it a little hilarious that a product can treat both bug bites and bruises and “hits.” OTOH, if it works, then bravo, and believe me, I will be passing by the pharmacy tomorrow morning to buy a bottle.
    Another thing is prevention. We put in screens on rollers, like shades. In winter, we want to reach out to shut our shutters. But in summer, we shut the shutters only part-way, to allow the air to circulate. That can be done from outside. And inside, we have the screens down. It is SO nice to have almost no flies or other insects (some sneak in when people open doors) and certainly no mosquitoes. One of our best investments ever.
    Taste of France recently posted…Walk in the French CountrysideMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      No matter what I do, these little bastards find me! But yup, I have my net, my sprays, etc. so I’m doing what I can to avoid the bites in the first place. Once I have a bad reaction, I use Synthol now to calm everything and heal before the blisters start forming. The ingredients work within the skin to heal it and reduce swelling, so I can see how it works on bites and also when you whack your leg on something. It’s been a godsend for me, really! Love that you installed your own screens. Happy Easter (if you celebrate)!

      Reply

  • Holly

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    That one on your face looks horrid 🙁 I am allergic too. I am worried about this season with a new baby to think about – I won’t be able to use any chemicals.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yah, it wasn’t fun at all and I kept panicking thinking it would blister up… but then Synthol to the rescue! Sorry to hear you’re allergic too. Hope life as a new mom is treating you well. 😉

      Reply

    • Diane

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      It’s really worth it, haven’t found anything that even remotely compares.

      Reply

  • Diane

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    Mosquitoes are not my problem but there is something in the garden that seems to get under my clothes and bites me in the worst places! I do though have the same effect as you do with mosquitoes and it is not funny. Blisters itching, heat and rash, it drives me mad. I am off to buy Synthol on Tuesday, pity Monday is Easter!!!
    Thanks for this tip. Happy Easter, t’other Diane
    Diane recently posted…Rouen – with Satnav it’s manageable!My Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Do you think it’s a spider or just some other winged insect? Sorry to hear you have the same reactions as I do. NOT FUN! But the Synthol really does help. Happy Easter, too!

      Reply

      • Diane

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        I thought it may be spider but now have changed my mind as it is always in the garden I seem to get bitten and not on open skin, always places well covered. BUT you have changed my life, thank you so much, so far Synthol has worked like a dream but the bites get worse as summer progresses so hopefully you have solved my problem. Thanks so much t’other Diane

        Reply

        • Diane

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          So happy it’s working well for you! Let’s hope the bugs stay away in the first place so we don’t have to use Synthol!

          Reply

    • Diane

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      Glad I could introduce you to it!

      Reply

  • fiona

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    I’m going to check this out! The bastard mozzies always get me, so thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Ah, sorry to hear they eat you alive too. Enjoy your Synthol 😉

      Reply

  • Anais

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    Hello Diane, I’m French and live in Canada now. I like to read your posts to have a fresh/new point of view about my country and culture.
    This time I’m very pleased to read your comments about Synthol. In my family we use it to treat mouth ulcers, pure on a piece of cotton or diluted as a mouthwash (as you mention it). But never swallow it ! My french colleagues and I talked about it once and we all feel lost without it, even if we use it for different problems.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Anais! Where in Canada are you living? How do you like it? (I know that’s a big question)

      So happy to hear Synthol is a favorite of yours as well! I heard it used to be used as a special mouthwash but ever since the formulation changed, the label no longer advertises that as a way to use the product. A French guy on my FB page said the same thing, though, so it must work! Can you find it in Canada?

      Reply

      • Anais

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        Hi Diane,
        I like Canada and particularly Montreal where I live. Unfortunately, there is no Synthol in Canada.
        But I used the new formula for the same purpose before to move and it worked as usual. As long as you don’t swallow it…

        Reply

  • CatherineRose

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    I wish I had known about this! Mosquitos eat me alive and I used to get horrible bites in Lyon (what are mosquitos doing in Lyon?!?!?) Those bites look awful! Glad you found something that works on them. (P.S. Your comment about window screens cracked me up. I completely agree. Why is no one else more concerned about letting all the bugs in?!)
    CatherineRose recently posted…French Expressions: Two times my students were the cutest everMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      How are the mosquitoes in Cali? Bad but not enough to give you a terrible reaction? I feel like mosquitoes have always loved me but the bites were never this bad back in the USA. Even in zika country Florida.

      Reply

      • CatherineRose

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        There are almost none where I live because I’m right on the coast in a cool climate, but the ones I’ve run into weren’t anything like the ones in Lyon! I just got a couple tiny red bites, whereas in France they would swell up several inches in diameter. I even have another friend who spent time in Lyon who said the mosquitos were vicious. Maybe French mosquitos are just more savage!
        CatherineRose recently posted…French Expressions: Two times my students were the cutest everMy Profile

        Reply

  • Emily

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    Well! First Picard and now Synthol. This could not have been more useful. Last year we went to a family wedding near where you are in September, and I came home absolutely covered in vicious red welts and was actually crying because of the itching. The GP thought it might be bed bugs, which induced total panic and mad washing and sterilising of everything in sight (despite the facts that nobody else in the family was affected like I was: they all had one or two regular mosquito bites that itched normally). But this is a possible explanation. And now I am going to go out and stockpile Synthol. Thank you!!!! Oh don’t we learn some useful tips on #AllAboutFrance
    Emily recently posted…Everyone is created equalMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi there, definitely NOT bed bugs. I had the same thought and meticulously checked my bed but found nothing. My husband is always fine — they don’t like him! I don’t know if they’re mosquitoes exactly but there seem to be bugs that bite several times, making a series of really painful welts, but they aren’t bed bugs. Did a lot of research on that. Thankfully I found Synthol… wish I could find a solid product for preventing the damn things from biting me in the first place! Glad I could be useful. Happens sometimes 😉

      Reply

  • June de Silva

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    As I have an allergic reaction to most insect bites and bruise really easily, I’ll be heading straight to the local pharmacie on Tuesday! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Enjoy! Sorry to hear you have an allergic reaction to bites too. Seems to be pretty common. Poor us!

      Reply

  • Phoebe

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    Are you sure they’re mozzie bites? They sound more like spider bites to me and that you have already had them for a couple of months (this written in mid April) means mozzies in February sounds very unusual.Here in the south there is a real problem to the extent that Dengue fever has even been diagnosed in a couple of cases where the person hadn’t travelled, and despite having a warmer climate than you we don’t (yet) get them as early as February. They are just beginning now, in May, though I’ve only seen a couple so far. On the other hand we have spiders all year round almost and I get a similar reaction to spider bites, with a blister and huge hard hot swelling (sounds rather rude!!) but mozzie bites just itch for a little while and quickly fade. Anyway,I guess it’s all rather academic who or what bit you, if you’ve found a solution for the pain that’s the main thing. I didn’t know about synthol and will be getting a bottle to try on my spider bites. Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

    Reply

  • Donna

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    I live on the shoreline in southern Connecticut.
    I am very interested to try this.
    Can I buy in the US or online?
    Thank you ☺️

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Donna, I haven’t been able to find any shops selling it online in the US. I’d be happy to send you some, as it’s only about a six-euro product, but I don’t think the shipping charges would be worth it. Let me know though!

      Reply

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