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Summer Safety Series: How to Treat Your Child’s Bug Bites or Stings

 Here’s the buzz on how to treat your child’s bug bites or stings this summer.

Summer is here and it’s buzzing with bugs.

June marks the beginning of summer as we enter a new season of life outdoors. From playdates at the park to trips to the zoo, to pool parties, camping and fishing trips, summer sports, and more, children have a plethora of reasons to embrace the outdoors.

However, the time children spend enjoying the outdoors is often ephemeral.

With the sunny days and warm weather comes many unwanted visitors: bugs. Bugs such as mosquitoes, bees, and spiders are known to run rampant during the summer months.

These pests are typically nothing more than mere annoyances but if bitten or stung by one, can be a cause for concern.

Bug bites and stings can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, illnesses, and even diseases, therefore it’s important to know how to treat them. Our Senior Director of Pediatrics, Kelly Ann Williams, MSN, CPNP-AC, PNP-BC shares these essential tips on how to care for your child with bug bites or stings.

Tips on How to Treat Bug Bites and Stings

Bug bites and stings are common and generally harmless.

However, did you know bites and stings can cause serious allergic reactions or life-threatening illnesses?

Sometimes, bug bites and stings are just inevitable but as a parent we want you to feel prepared in knowing how to treat them if/when they do occur. Here’s how to treat your child’s bug bites:

Treating Mosquito Bites

Mosquito bites are the most common bug bites children get during the summer months. They are known to cause slight pain and discomfort due to the itchiness as a result of the bite. The skin around the bite will generally become red and is accompanied by a strong urge to scratch the infection site. Typically, the itchiness goes away at the end of the day.

Mosquito bites are relatively easy to treat however, there are cases where mosquito bites may warrant a serious case for concern. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases through their bites such as West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, and Malaria.  In the U.S., West Nile Virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease with 1 out of every 150 infected people developing a serious or sometimes fatal illness from the bite.

Signs and symptoms from someone infected with the West Nile Virus can range from and include swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, headaches, vomiting, skin rash, fever, stiff neck, paralysis, and can even lead to a coma. To protect yourself from West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, use insect repellent and cover-up by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants to prevent bites. If you suspect you or your child has been infected with West Nile Virus, seek medical attention immediately from one of our Trusted ER locations.

Mosquito Bite Care

When treating mosquito bites, here’s what you should do:

Wash them with soap and warm water

Always wash the mosquito bite with soap and warm water to cleanse the affected area. Washing the bite will help prevent infection and itchiness from occurring.

Give Tylenol, Motrin, or Benadryl

Mosquito bites often cause slight pain and discomfort and OTC meds such as Tylenol, Motrin, and Benadryl can help reduce the pain and discomfort from the bite as well as reduce swelling and inflammation.

Use topical anti-itch to control pain and itching

Is your child itching like crazy and can’t seem to stop scratching? Apply a topical anti-itch cream to help control the pain and prevent your child from scratching. Your child may find relief from calamine lotion or a topical anti-itch cream to relieve irritation and discomfort from the urge to scratch.

Apply an ice pack                                    

Try applying an ice pack or cold compress to help soothe the pain and reduce the swelling. Cold compresses are great for relieving and soothing pain from an inflamed area of the skin. Hold the ice pack over the affected area for a few minutes to provide temporary relief.

Important: Make sure your child’s fingernails are short and remind them not to scratch the affected area. Scratching the bite with fingernails can cause further inflammation and the bacteria under their fingernails can get cause into the affected area and lead to infection.

Treating Spider Bites

Spider bites are common in Texas and although spiders try to avoid us as much as we avoid them, if they feel threatened, they will bite. If your child has been bitten by a spider, it’s important to be swift and treat the bite site to reduce the chance of infection. If you are unsure if your child was bitten by a venomous spider, seek medical care immediately to identify the species of the spider.

Texas is known for two venomous spiders: the black widow and the brown recluse. These two spiders can be found indoors and outdoors and are especially dangerous.

The Black Widow Spider is typically identified by its jet-black color and is frequently found in boxes, outdoor toilets, and woodpiles. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, its venom is 15 times more toxic than the venom of a prairie rattlesnake. Children and older adults are especially at risk for more severe reactions. Symptoms from a Black Widow Spider bite include abdominal cramping, convulsions, headaches, lesion at the site of the bite, profuse sweating, vomiting, tremors, and unconsciousness.

The Brown Recluse Spider is typically identified by its golden-brown color and its fiddle-shaped pattern on its head region. These spiders are found in basements, garages, boards, boxes, old towels, and clothes in dark, undisturbed areas. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, a bite from the brown recluse spider can cause chills, fever, nausea, fatigue, necrosis at the bite site, weakness, and a red, white, and blue lesion at the bite site.

Black widow or brown recluse. Use soap and water to wash, apply a cold compress, and seek attention immediately. Get attention right away if you notice, visible skin rash or swelling. Swelling or pain lasts more than 3 days. Wheezing or struggle to breathe, tightness in throat or chest, swelling of lips, tongue, or face, dizziness, or fainting, nausea or vomiting, seek medical care immediately.

Important: If you have any reason to suspect your child has been bitten by the Black Widow Spider or Brown Recluse Spider, use soap and water to wash the affected area, apply a cold compress, and take your child to the nearest Trusted ER. Even if your child does not show any signs of symptoms, get medical attention right away.

Spider Bite Care

When treating a non-venomous spider, here’s what you should do:

Wash them with soap and warm water 2-3x per day

Wash the mosquito bite with soap and warm water to cleanse the affected area at least 2-3x per day. Washing the bite will help prevent infection and itchiness from occurring.

Give Tylenol or Motrin

Spider bites can be painful and cause discomfort. Over-the-counter meds (OTC) such as Tylenol or Motrin can help reduce the pain and discomfort from the bite as well as reduce swelling and inflammation.

Apply cool compresses                            

Try applying a cool compress to help soothe the pain and reduce the swelling. Cool compresses are great for relieving and soothing pain from the bite site. Hold the cool compress over the affected area for a few minutes to provide temporary relief.

Apply an antibiotic ointment

Antibiotic ointment can help reduce your child’s risk of getting an infection from the bite and speed up the healing process. The antibiotic ointment can provide relief and allow the bite site to heal faster.

Treating Bee Stings

One of the most common types of injuries children experience during the summer months are bee stings. Bee stings can be extremely painful and can sometimes cause an allergic reaction. Children are at a higher risk of having an allergic reaction to insect stings.

Like spiders, bees typically only “attack” or sting when they feel threatened, as a sign of defense. When a bee’s stinger penetrates your skin, its venom is released into your body and sets off the body’s pain receptors.

Common symptoms of a bee sting include swelling, redness, itchiness, and pain at the sting site. Additionally, bee stings can also cause severe allergic reactions in some children. If you think your child is experiencing an allergic reaction, seek medical attention right away.

The venom from a bee sting can potentially trigger deadly anaphylaxis if not treated right away. Therefore, it’s important you monitor your child’s symptoms and reactions to the bee sting. Symptoms such as light-headedness, trouble breathing, and swallowing are signs of anaphylaxis and warrant a trip to the ER. According to WebMD, in the U.S., there are roughly 40 fatal allergic reactions to bees and other insect stings each year.

Bee Sting Care

When treating mild bee stings, here’s what you should do:

Remove stinger quickly

A bee will usually leave behind a stinger, attached to a venom sack. Try to remove the stinger as quickly as possible in a scraping motion without pinching the venom sack at the end.

Wash them with soap and warm water

Wash the bee sting with mild soap and warm water at least 2-3 times a day until the skin is healed. This will help cleanse the affected area and help prevent infection and further inflammation.

Give Tylenol, Motrin, or Benadryl

These over-the-counter medications (OTC) can help reduce itchiness. If your child is experiencing pain or discomfort from the itchiness of the sting, try one of these OTC meds to help alleviate the pain and itchiness.

Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream

Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to ease the redness, itchiness, or swelling in the sting site. The lotion or cream may help your child fight the urge to scratch the infected area as well as reduce pain from the sting. Your child should avoid scratching the area at all costs to prevent further damage or infection.

Apply an ice pack                                    

Try applying an ice pack or cold compress to help soothe the pain and reduce the swelling from the sting. Cold compresses are great for relieving and soothing pain from an inflamed area of the skin. Hold the ice pack over the affected area for a few minutes to provide temporary relief. 

Important: A sting anywhere in the mouth area needs immediate medical attention. A sting in the mouth area can quickly cause severe swelling which may block the airway. Seek care right away if your child has been stung in the mouth area for proper care and treatment.

When to Seek Medical Attention

With any bite or sting, seek immediate medical attention if you notice a large skin rash or swelling around the bite or sting site. Or, if swelling or pain lasts more than 3 days which could be signs of an infection.

If your child experiences wheezing or trouble breathing, tightness in throat or chest, swelling of lips, tongue, or face, dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, it is important you seek medical care immediately at one of our Trusted ER locations near you.

We have 3 locations where we provide the best-in-class healthcare to patients in the most comfortable environment with exceptional care. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Summer Safety Series

For more in-depth tips on how you and your child can stay happy and healthy and prepare for a fun and safe summer, check out our Summer Safety Series.

And remember, if your child has an emergency, we are ready to treat any illness or injury in the comfort of your home with My Trusted Pediatrics. As always, we are “caring for yours as if they were our own.”

Have a fun and bug bite-free summer!