Insect Bites and Stings: What to do, & When to Seek Medical Attention

insect bites and stings

INSECT BITES and STINGS:

Once your kids are outdoors, they’re sure to come into contact with insects. What you see may differ based on what insect has bitten your child. 

COMMON INSECT BITES & stings

  • Mosquito & Spider Bites: Cause areas of redness, swelling, warmth & itchiness around the areas of bites.
  • Bee & Wasp Stings: Lead to the above as well, but with a lot of accompanying pain.
  • Fire Ant Bites: Have a cloudy/blister-like appearance to the bite and are often seen as a cluster of bites in one area.
  • Chigger & Flea Bites: Look like clusters of small red bumps often seen on legs/feet. They tend to cause extreme itching. Chigger bites can also appear along the waistband.
  • Tick Bites: Can go unnoticed unless the tick is actually identified. Sometimes the bite is completely missed until the associated rash appears days/weeks later with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease

 

do this immediately after insect BITEs and STINGS?

  • For a bee sting or tick bite, you should remove the stinger or tick from the skin. Ticks can hide behind ears, in the hairline, in the armpits, or groin region. Examine your child closely after walks/hikes in wooded areas or after camping.
  • Wash the area with soap/water after removing a stinger or tick & disinfect it with rubbing alcohol or first aid agent.
  • Apply ice/cool compresses for 5-10 minutes at a time to help cool that warmth & reduce swelling of all bites/stings. If the child has stepped into an anthill and has bites all over their feet, you may soak their feet in a cool bath.
  • Relieve the itch with Calamine lotion or Aloe Vera gel. You can also apply a paste made with baking soda & water to help with the itch.
  • Use 1% Hydrocortisone to areas of bites/stings twice a day to reduce itching, redness, swelling.
  • Take an oral antihistamine like Benadryl to help reduce itching & swelling of bites as well.
  • If your child is experiencing discomfort or pain, use Tylenol or Ibuprofen to help comfort them & reduce the inflammation. Get appropriate dosing from your doctor.

HOW TO PREVENT insect BITES and STINGS?

  • Cover up with hats, long sleeves, cotton pants, socks & shoes. It’s tempting to let our kids run around in shorts & sandals when it’s hot outside, but those bugs might make you think twice.
  • Avoid fragrances & bright-colored clothing as they tend to attract insects.
  • Stay away from places where insects gather like standing water, blooming flowers, insect nests/anthills, and uncovered food.
  • Try not to hike off the trails into highly wooded or tall-grass regions where ticks might be more prominent. Chiggers also live in areas of tall grass & bushes.
  • Remember that spiders might hide behind piles of wood, boxes, or furniture.
  • Use insect repellent. You can use insect repellent with less than 30% DEET on children as young as 2 months of age. (I recommend spraying it on your hands and rubbing it on the exposed arms & legs of infants so they don’t inhale the spray. Don’t apply any to their hands as their hands are always in their mouths.) Wash the sprayed areas with soap & water once the kids are done playing outside.

WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION?

  • Insect bites and stings lead to an inflammatory response in the affected area. If the redness & swelling spreads, the surrounding area begins to feel warm, or if your child develops a fever, have the bites examined by a doctor. There may be an infection that requires medication.
  • Bites from a venomous spider might look worse over the next couple of days. There may be pus or muscle cramps around the area of the bite, it may look like the area is blistering or “cratering” inwards, the redness may spread and your child may develop a fever & chills. See a doctor for advice if this happens.
  • Some insect bites or stings (for example fire ants, bees, wasps) can lead to a severe allergic reaction not only with swelling of the affected area but diffuse hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of lips/tongue. This may happen even if it didn’t occur previously when your child was bitten/stung. If this happens, you want to call 911 immediately to get help and guidance. 

 

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