Mosquitoes, bees, and other insects seem to love young skin. While annoying and sometimes painful, most bites are harmless, says Sajjad Yacoob, MD, attending physician at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Still, you need to be on the alert for allergic reactions and infection.
If your child is scratching her mosquito bite, try applying a cool compress or rubbing an ice cube on the bite for several seconds. You can also alleviate itching with calamine lotion or a paste made of three teaspoons baking soda and one teaspoon water. For persistent or severe itching, ask your pediatrician if it's okay to use a topical anesthetic cream such as Itch-X or a 1-percent hydrocortisone cream. Also, cut or file down your child's fingernails so that any scratching will be less likely to break the skin and cause an infection.
A bee leaves behind a nasty calling card -- a stinger attached to a venom sac. Don't try to pull it out with your fingers or the stinger will release more poison. Use a clean fingernail, credit card, or the edge of a very dull knife to scrape the stinger out. Wash the area with soap and water and apply a wet washcloth or cold pack for several minutes. Then apply a paste of baking soda and water.
To relieve the pain and itching from a sting, can ask your doctor about using an over-the-counter antihistamine such as liquid Benadryl. One caution: To avoid an overdose, never give your child an oral antihistamine at the same time as a topical one.
The bite of an infected tick can cause Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that usually first appears as a red bull's-eye rash and triggers fatigue, aching joints, and other symptoms if left untreated. If you live in a rural or forested area or take a family camping trip, you'll need to inspect everyone from head to toe for ticks when you come indoors. Be sure to wash all clothes too.
To remove a tick, use tweezers and grab it as close to the skin as possible. Pull back slowly, being careful not to squeeze, which may cause you to lose some of the tick in the skin. If you live in an area where tick diseases are common, save the tick in a small bottle of rubbing alcohol and call your doctor for advice.
Call the Doctor If...
An insect bite gets unusually large, becomes very painful, or appears to be infected.
Call 911 If...
Your child has an allergic reaction. In rare cases, anaphylaxis can occur, a potentially life-threatening condition with symptoms that affect more than one part of the body, such as throat swelling and hives.
Remember when a mosquito bite was just an itchy annoyance? Nowadays parents in many parts of the country worry about West Nile virus, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Less than 1 percent of people who become infected with West Nile get seriously ill. But that's little comfort for parents when mosquito bites start popping up like chickenpox in summer months.
To minimize bites: Keep children indoors at dawn and dusk; dress them in long-sleeve shirts and pants (weather permitting); and for kids 1 year and older, use an insect repellent with 10 percent or less DEET. Spray on clothing only, not on skin.