Is there anything better than being a kid in the summer? No school, endless days of fun playing outside, swimming and being with friends… it just doesn’t get any better! But outdoor fun puts kids in contact with insects and that may cause problems that parents need to be aware of.
In most cases, stings and insect bites are no more than nuisances that bring momentary alarm and discomfort, but no serious lingering health issues. On occasion however, they may cause infections that require treatment or allergic reactions that can be extremely serious, even fatal. Parents need to know the signs of infection or allergic reactions and when to seek medical help. If the child has a history of complications from bug bites, alert all caregivers so that medical intervention can be quickly sought in case of an occurrence. Here’s what parents should look for with some of the more common insect issues:
Bee and Wasp Stings
Bees will leave behind a stinger attached to a venom sac. Try to remove the stinger as quickly as possible and wash the area carefully with soap and water. Apply an ice pack for a few minutes to help reduce any swelling or discomfort and give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
For itching, you may consider giving an over-the-counter oral antihistamine such as Benadryl®. Follow the dosage instructions according to your child’s age and weight or ask your pediatrician or pharmacist which dose is best for your child. You may also apply a corticosteroid cream applied to the affected area. For a homeopathic remedy for inflammation try Arnica or Calendula in cream of gel formulations.
A sting anywhere in the mouth warrants immediate medical attention because stings in oral mucous membranes can quickly cause severe swelling that may block airways. Seek medical care if you notice a large skin rash or swelling around the sting site, or if swelling or pain persists for more than 3 days, which could indicate an infection.
Get medical help IMMEDIATELY if you notice any of the following signs, which may indicate a serious or potentially life-threatening allergic reaction:
- wheezing or difficulty breathing
- tightness in throat or chest
- swelling of the lips, tongue, or face
- dizziness or fainting
- nausea or vomiting
Black Widow Spider
If bitten by a spider, wash the area carefully with soap and water and apply cool compresses and give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
To protect against infection, apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin® to the bite. If you have any reason to suspect a bite by a black widow or brown recluse spider, apply ice to the bite site and take your child to the Emergency Room. Even if a child doesn’t show any symptoms, get medical attention right away.
Most spiders found in the US are harmless, with the exception of the black widow and the brown recluse spiders. The brown recluse spider — a tiny oval brown spider with a small shape like a violin on its back — is found mostly in Midwestern and Southern parts of the United States but can be found throughout the US. The bites usually don’t hurt at first, and a child might not even be aware of the bite, but in some cases they cause swelling and changes in skin color and a blister that may need medical treatment.
The black widow spider, which is found all over North America, has a shiny black body and an orange hourglass shape on its underbelly. The venom they release can cause painful cramps within a few hours of the bite. The cramps can start in the muscles around the bite and then spread. The bite may also lead to nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, and muscle aches. If your child has any of these symptoms — or you know that he or she has been bitten — go to the Emergency Room right away.
The Hudson Valley is a prime area for ticks. We enjoy lots of outdoor activities and ticks just come with the territory so we’ve got to be vigilant. Check kids and pets for ticks carefully after you’ve been in or around a wooded or grassy area. Common types of ticks include dog ticks and deer ticks (deer ticks may be carriers of Lyme disease).
If you find a tick on your child:
- Call your doctor, who may want you to save the tick in a sealed container or zip-locked bag for identification later. Commonly physicians will prescribe a short course of antibiotics as a prophylactic measure to prevent Lyme disease. Notifying your family doctor of a tick bite is important so they may have the ability to treat Lyme disease infections early on.
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick firmly at its head or mouth, next to the skin.
- Pull firmly and steadily on the tick until it lets go (do not twist or jerk the tick), then swab the bite site with alcohol.
Some ticks are so small it is hard to see them. This makes it hard to tell if you have removed the tick’s head. If you do not see any obvious parts of the tick’s head where it attached, assume you have removed the entire tick, but watch for symptoms of a skin infection. Symptoms of infection may include:
- Pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the area.
- Red streaks leading from the area.
- Pus draining from the area.
- Fever or chills.
If you have a rash, headache, joint pain, fever, or flu-like symptoms, this could mean you have an illness related to a tick bite such as Lyme disease. If you have any of these symptoms, or symptoms of a skin infection, call your doctor.