What to do if your child gets an insect sting or bite
The Blueberry Pediatrics Blog

What to do if your child gets an insect sting or bite

Dr. Lyndsey Garbi and
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You’re on a walk with your family and- ouch! Something stings your little one! Insect stings hurt and can be very scary.  Though they can usually be managed at home, it is good to become familiar with the different types of insect stings and bites, and when it is an emergency.

First – Remove the Stinger

Insects use a stinger which can sometimes be left inside the body. The first thing to do is remove the stinger if it is still there. After that, you want to monitor your child for an allergic reaction to the sting.

When is it a medical emergency?

Look out for the following, which usually indicate that your child is having an allergic reaction. Usually, if they are going to happen, these things will occur soon after the bite or sting. Keep an eye out for these for a few hours:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing.
  • Change in voice or hoarseness.
  • Swelling, especially their face, lips, or tongue.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Previously having an anaphylactic reaction to a similar sting.

Was it a dangerous bug? If you suspect that the bite was from a dangerous insect such as the black widow spider or brown recluse spider, you must take your child to be seen immediately.

It’s not an emergency – what should I do?

Most of the time, the area around the sting will turn red and hurt. It can look a bit nasty and get decently swollen. Although it is not pleasant,  this is not an emergency. Here’s how you can help the swollen painful area:

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Keep the area clean.
  • Try not to let your child scratch it! (We know this is easier said than done).
  • Apply anti-itch medicine, like a cortisone cream or calamine lotion.

What about tick bites?

lyme disease, reported cases in US in 2016 Ticks live in the grass and bushes. Like us, they prefer shady areas. SOME ticks, not all, can spread Lyme disease when they bite, but only if it has been attached to the skin for a long time (usually 36-48 hours). If your child is bitten by a tick, remove it with tweezers and be sure to get all of its parts out. SAVE THE LITTLE BUGGER! You can compare it with pictures to see what kind of tick it is and what diseases it may carry.

If you live in an area with a high prevalence of ticks, teach your kids about ticks and lyme disease and encourage them to check themselves in the shower after playing outside. If they’re young, (or you suspect they aren’t checking well), check your kids yourself. Make sure to especially check their armpits, hair and around their waist-line.

How do I prevent my kids from getting bitten or stung?

Here are some simple precautions to prevent little critters from getting to you and your kids:

  • Wear bug spray. Some folks worry about the chemicals in bug spray, but it’s much better to use bug spray than to end up with Lyme Disease. You should use bug spray just like your kids do, since they’ll be more likely to do it next time if they see you doing it.
  • Wear protective clothing. Cover up with shoes, long sleeves and long pants when you go somewhere where you know it’s likely there are insects. If you’re in an area with a lot of lyme disease and your kids like to play outside, keep an eye on what your kids are wearing!
  • Check your kids for ticks when they come home at the end of the day.
  • Teach your child to recognize beehives and wasps’ nests, and to slowly back away when they see one.
  • Avoid ant mounds, and teach your children not to play with ants.