As families head to the parks, lakes and woods this summer, a lot of questions come up about insect bites and stings. Children are naturally curious and love to explore outside. This brings them into contact with a host of things, from mosquitos and ticks, to hornets and bees. And while most insect bites are no more than a nuisance, here are some ways to protect your family.
How can I prevent insect bites or stings?
- Look to see if insects are present. Mosquitos are often most active in the early morning and evening time and around water. Nests of bees, wasps or hornets often can be found in old tree stumps, around rotting wood and in holes in the ground.
- Wear shoes. Even a dead insect can sting if a child steps on it or picks it up.
- When eating outside, avoid or be mindful of foods that can attract stinging insects. Examples are peanut butter and jelly, watermelon, sweetened drinks and frozen treats, like ice cream.
- If your child is allergic to insects, they should have a medical alert necklace or bracelet. Do not allow them to play outside alone when stinging insects are active.
- If an insect is near, do not swat at it or run. This can trigger an attack. Instead walk away slowly.
- Wear insect repellent or bug spray. Repellents that contain 10-30% DEET are safe and protect against mosquitos and ticks. Repellents that contain picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus are effective against mosquitos.
- Look for ticks after you have been out in the woods or tall grasses. The most important places to check are behind your ears and in your scalp, in your armpits and groin, and behind the knees.
What should I do if my child gets a bite?
- Most bug bites only cause a little swelling and mild pain or itching. Using 1% hydrocortisone cream (sold in the store without a prescription) can lessen the itching. If the bite is painful, acetaminophen can help.
- If you see a tick, remove it as soon as you can. To do this, take a tweezers and slowly pull tick out from its head, which is closest to your skin. Try not to twist it and do not try to burn a tick off.
- After a bee or wasp sting, if you can see the stinger, remove it. Then wash the area with soap and water. An ice pack can help with swelling or pain
How do I know if a sting or bite is serious?
- If the person who was stung starts having more serious symptoms call 911 immediately. These symptoms include:
- rash over their whole body
- swelling in their face, lips or tongue
- wheezing or difficulty breathing
- If a bite develops a blister, has a lot of pain or is not healing, it’s a good idea to call your doctor.
If you would like more information, here are some good websites to check out.
Stanley Weinberger, MD, pediatrician, is medical director of Pediatric Primary Care at the The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.