Bug Off! Preventing & Treating Bug Bites and Stings

Bees, Wasps, and Yellow Jackets

Home Base: These stinging insects hang out in gardens, meadows, lawns, woods, and beaches. They're also attracted to food and garbage cans.

First Aid: Remove the stinger by gently scraping a credit card over it, says Ellen Schumann, MD, a pediatrician at the Marshfield Clinic, in Weston, Wisconsin. Wash the area and apply an ice pack. Call the doctor immediately if your child develops hives or dizziness, or has trouble breathing.

Steer Clear: Teach your child to hold still and not swat at stinging insects. If one lands on her, she should gently brush or blow it away. Keep food and drinks covered.


Home Base: These very tiny red mites live in damp, shady areas where grass and weeds grow tall. Kids are most likely to get bitten around the ankles, belt line, collar, and sleeve cuffs.

First Aid: Bathe your child in warm, soapy water. Apply antiseptic ointment to the itchy, red bumps to prevent infection. Hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or an antihistamine can help with the itching.

Steer Clear: If you have chiggers in your area, make sure your child doesn't roll in the grass. Have her wear shoes and socks outdoors, and use bug repellent. Keep your lawn cut short.

Insect Stings
Insect Stings

Insect Repellant 101

  • Apply an insect repellent containing DEET to your child's exposed skin -- avoiding her face and hands -- before she goes outdoors. The AAP recommends using a product that contains no more than 30 percent DEET. Don't use DEET on babies under 2 months old.
  • After your child comes indoors, wash his treated skin with soap and water. "Avoid products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent because you could expose your child to excess DEET when you reapply every couple of hours," says Albert Yan, MD, chief of pediatric dermatology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
  • For extra protection, apply a repellent containing permethrin to clothing, shoes, and sleeping bags. Permethrin is a virtually nontoxic chemical that kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other bugs on contact. Spray items outdoors, and allow clothing to dry before wearing it. Don't apply permethrin directly to the skin.

Originally published in the July 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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