Parents should use child-appropriate repellant to avoid bug bites and take proper steps if serious reactions bee stings or bug bites occur.
Unless you spend your summers in the frozen tundras of the Arctic, you know that warm weather is a boon to both kids and bugs alike. But what are the best ways to keep your rugrats from getting eaten up by mosquitoes, and how do you know when that bee sting is more than just a boo boo?
Preventing mosquito bites and bee stings
To prevent insect bites from bloodsuckers like mosquitoes or ticks and other summer pests – such as bee stings – pediatricians recommend making sure you’re using the right kind of repellant.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation for bug spray that’s safe for children is to use a spray that has at least 10 percent DEET or less,” says Dr. Laura Schrader, a Charlotte-area pediatrician with Lakeside Family Physicians in Denver, North Carolina. “Apply it only once a day but don’t use bug spray on kids less than two months old.”
She also recommends that parents avoid applying insect repellant to children’s faces or hands, since it could easily come in contact with their eyes or mouth.
To avoid stings or bites from other insects, such as bees, wasps or fire ants, it’s best to teach children how to identify potentially harmful insects and to avoid areas where they may be prevalent.
reating bites and stings
Dr. Barbara Slivnick, a Chicago pediatrician with Children’s Healthcare Associates, says most insect bites, such as those from mosquitoes cause reactions around the area of the bite with symptoms such as pain, redness, swelling and itching that may persist for several days. “For all bug bites, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, and keep it clean and dry throughout the healing process,” she says.
Using an anti-itch cream may help alleviate the itchiness associated with bug bites, and parents should take care to trim kids’ fingernails short to prevent agitation or possible infection in the affected area caused by scratching. Over-the-counter oral anti-histamines, such as Benadryl, can also help reduce the discomfort produced by itchiness.
If children are playing in or walking through deeper woods or brush where ticks may be present, removing a tick will take some extra effort. “Remove the tick by grasping with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling steadily outward, without twisting, as you want to remove the complete tick’s body and head,” Slivnick says. Since ticks may transmit serious diseases such as Lyme disease, consider consulting with a pediatrician if you find a tick on your child.
Treating bee stings requires a different technique. “If the stinger is visibly embedded in skin, scrape the area with the edge of a credit card or a similar clean, flat-edged item, to remove it,” Slivnick says. “To avoid additional venom release, do not attempt removal by manual squeezing.”
For any bite or sting, applying a cold compresses, ice pack, or a package of frozen food soon after the bite or sting occurs will slow down toxin spread and keep swelling down, she adds.
When to seek medical help for insect bites or bee stings
If your child has never experienced a bite or sting before, or only recently experienced their first bite or sting, be careful to look for signs of a severe allergic reaction. “Local swelling near the site of the sting is usually fine,” Schrader says. “But if there’s any kind of trouble breathing or swelling around the lips, mouth, tongue or face, get your child seen by a doctor.”
Slivnick says severe allergic reactions can occur even in children without allergies to stings or bites if there are multiple bites or stings. “Multiple stings, even in a non-allergic person, can also lead to more severe reactions, which can include severe swelling, fevers, sleepiness, and breathing problems,” she says. “All of these reactions necessitate an emergency medical evaluation.”