Bug Off! Preventing & Treating Bug Bites and Stings
The latest advice on how to keep these insects from biting or stinging your child, from Parents magazine and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Home Base: They live in wooded, grassy areas and over lakes and ponds. Rarely, they can transmit disease, such as the West Nile virus, which can cause inflammation of the brain, says David Kimberlin, MD, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
First Aid: Dab hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or a baking-soda paste onto itchy bites. A cool compress may help too. Call your doctor if bites become infected or if your child develops a fever or a bad headache.
Steer Clear: Keep your child indoors at dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. Apply repellent to her skin, and when it's very buggy out, try to dress her in pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
Home Base: These bugs usually live in wooded areas and range in size from a pinhead to an apple seed. They can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Ticks like to burrow into snug, warm areas of the body.
First Aid: Remove a tick with tweezers. Wash the area and apply antibiotic ointment. Call the doctor if your child develops a fever or a rash.
Steer Clear: If your child will be in a wooded area, apply repellent and dress her in a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and socks. Check her entire body for ticks daily.VIDEO: Boy With Facial Paralysis Caused By a Tick Bite
Home Base: These aggressive reddish-brown ants are commonly found in the Southeast and Southwest. They build nests that create mounds of fine soil.
First Aid: Wash the area around the bite, and apply an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes. Call the doctor if your child experiences widespread redness or swelling, or has difficulty breathing.
Steer Clear: Check your yard for fire-ant mounds and either have them professionally removed or keep your child away from them. Make sure he always wears shoes outdoors.
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 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.
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