Treatments for Bug Bites and Stings
Not all little creatures are friendly -- some harass, bite, or sting. Our best advice: Steer clear of the baddies. (But here's what to do if you do get bitten.)
Prevention: We love them in cartoons, but they sting in real life. Bees are attracted to bright colors and patterns, so you may want to dress your kids in plain and neutral colors if they're hanging out where the bees are. They love sweet-smelling stuff, so skip the scented bubble bath and cover sugary drinks. If bees still show up for lunch, tell your child to keep still like a statue.
Treatment: First, remove the stinger, but don't yank it out, which can release more venom. Instead, scrape it with a credit card and whisk it out gently. After washing the wound with soap and water, soothe the site with ice wrapped in a cloth. If your child has trouble breathing, develops hives or swelling, vomits, or has diarrhea after a sting, get medical help immediately.
Prevention: Stay inside at dawn and dusk, and avoid playing near standing water like ponds and puddles, where mosquitoes like to congregate. Repellents containing DEET are effective, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using ones that contain no more than 30 percent DEET on children. Never apply on babies younger than 2 months.
Treatment: Tell your child not to scratch -- he'll break the skin, which can lead to infection. To minimize itch, apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream (1 percent), a baking-soda-and-water paste, calamine lotion, or diluted tea tree oil. Oral antihistamines like Benadryl provide stronger relief, but check with your pediatrician first.
Prevention: Unlike easy-to-spot dog ticks, deer ticks are only about as big as a sesame seed and can carry Lyme disease (and other tick-borne illnesses). Tell your kids to wear long sleeves and to tuck their pants into socks. Use repellents containing DEET (see the Mosquitoes section, previous page). Products containing permethrin, which you apply only on clothing, not on skin, kill ticks on contact and are safe for use on children's clothes. Once kids come inside, do a thorough tick check -- inspecting their scalp too.
Treatment: Most tick bites are harmless, but adults should remove a dog tick by grabbing its mouth with a pair of tweezers and pulling it out straight. Scrape off a tiny deer tick with a fingernail and put it in a jar to show to a doctor. Wash the bite area (and your hands) with soap and water. Call the doctor if you can't remove the tick, if any kind of rash develops, or if your child has joint pain or flulike symptoms. Call 911 if your child has a severe headache, chest pain, or trouble breathing.
Prevention: Spiders hide in dark places, so teach your kids to shake out shoes (and clothes that were on the floor) and to be careful when opening boxes that have been closed for a long time. All spiders bite, but most are harmless. You may feel mild itching and see redness for a couple of days. Two exceptions are black widow and brown recluse spider bites. Both spiders are venomous, though fatalities are rare.
Treatment: If you suspect your child was bitten by a black widow or brown recluse spider, call your pediatrician and poison control right away. Otherwise, wash with soap and water, then use ice wrapped in cloth to numb the area for about 20 minutes. Apply an over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment to keep the bite from getting infected -- a common complication of nonpoisonous spider bites.
Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Parents magazine.