Insect bites and stings are never fun. However, if your child is also allergic to that bite or sting, the problem is compounded.
In the vast majority of cases, a bite or sting (while painful) is generally harmless. But if your child is one of the 1 in 200 people that develops anaphylaxis in response to a sting or bite, you will need to know how to handle your child’s reaction and quickly.
The symptoms you are looking for are:
- A lump at the site of the bite or sting that is very red, swollen or warmer than the surrounding tissue.
- Hives of any kind, whether close to the site of the bite or elsewhere on the body.
- Rash of any kind, whether close to the site of the bite or elsewhere on the body.
- Any sensations of itching, tingling, numbness, burning, tenderness or pain that exceeds what you would expect for the type of bite or sting.
If the reaction to the sting spreads beyond the localized site of the sting, your child could be developing an anaphylactic reaction. Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of allergy, and it involves the whole body (as opposed to just the area of the bite or sting).
Mild reactions respond nicely to standard first aid for insect bites or stings:
- If a stinger remains in your child’s skin, remove it. You can do this easily by using a thin, straight-edged object (a credit card will do) across the stinger. The stinger should then come out.
- Wash any bite or sting thoroughly to remove any additional irritant from the insect.
- Use standard first aid, including a clean, cold compress or clean, moist dressing. Antibacterial ointment with topical pain reliever can help.
- Over the next 2 days, watch for any signs of infection or unusual reactions.
- After-bite care can include such things as over-the-counter antihistamines or anti-inflammatories for pain and itching. In fact, many health professionals will tell you to keep Children’s Benadryl on hand so that you can get this into your child’s system as soon as possible. The quick administration of antihistamine to a child with a milder allergy can help to reduce or eliminate symptoms.
If you have a moderate to severe reaction on your hands, or if your child has been stung inside the mouth or throat, get emergency help!
While waiting for help, you can take the following measures:
- Keep your child’s airway clear. Start rescue breathing or CPR if your child stops breathing.
- Keep your child as calm as possible. Homeopathic remedies such as Rescue Remedy are safe for children and have been known to be helpful in any case of trauma.
- Take off any restrictive clothing or jewelry. Swelling is a real possibility.
- If you have an allergy first aid kit, use it! If your child has a prescription for an epinephrine injector, such as an Epi-Pen or Twin-Ject, use it.
- Always remain with your child until help arrives. If you have to move or get help, take your child with you or send another responsible person.
The sting of an insect is generally more allergenic than the bite of an insect. So, as a parent, you need to pay more attention when your child is stung. Watch for any sign of an unusual response to the sting. However, keep in mind that your child could be allergic to either. The problem with both bites and stings is the transfer of foreign proteins by the insect. This is what your child is allergic to.
As with all allergies, your best strategy is to avoid the allergen!
Here are some pointers to avoid both bites and stings.
- Help your child learn how to avoid provoking stinging insects! Swatting at them can make them more likely to sting.
- If your child has to be near an insect hive or nest, have them move slowly and calmly. Rapid or jerky movements actually draw insects.
- Keep your little one away from perfumes and out of floral patterned clothing! These activities are advertising your presence to insects. Anecdotal experience also points to avoiding the color yellow and other bright colors, especially in the fall when stinging insects are looking for the last few flowers.
- Insect repellants and special protective clothing can really help to reduce bites. Choose your repellant wisely; while DEET is great at keeping insects at bay, there are also concerns about toxicity with this ingredient, especially with children. If you want to keep mosquitoes away, consider catnip oil as an alternative! Current research shows that catnip essential oil is as effective as DEET and you avoid an artificial chemical exposure for your child.
- Eating outdoors will attract all kinds of insects. Consider an appropriate shelter and insect screen when you want your family to eat outdoors.