When your child gets bitten by a bug this summer, it may cause a bit of an itch and nothing more. It could also cause dangerous infections and diseases.
What’s biting out there?
Mosquitos, first and foremost, but also ticks, wasps, and bees.
Can there be serious complications from bug bites?
Yes. In our neighborhood, ticks transmit Lyme disease. While it is fatal only in the rarest of cases, prompt treatment can prevent life-changing and permanent complications. A tick must be attached to your child’s skin for at least 36 hours to infect him, so examine your child thoroughly after being outdoors in a wooded area to find and remove ticks immediately. Remove ticks by cleaning the area with rubbing alcohol, pressing your tweezers on the skin to pinch as close to and as much of the tick head as possible, and pull up slowly and firmly. Clean the bite area again with rubbing alcohol. Clean your hands with alcohol as well.
Mosquitos most often transmit West Nile virus which can be deadly to small children and the medically fragile if not treated. Mosquito bites can also cause scary-looking allergic reactions, but as children get older, these reactions will become less severe as their bodies build immunity.
Bees won’t sting unless threatened, so teach your child to respect the bee’s space. Wasps, however, may sting unprovoked, so keep your child away from nests, flying wasps and areas such as garbage cans where wasps hover. Bee and wasp sting reaction can range from the painful and annoying to deadly if your child goes into anaphylactic shock.
If at any time a sting or bite seems to be affecting your child’s breathing, he feels weak or unable to move, or the swelling is becoming overwhelming, call 9-1-1 immediately. If at all possible, bring the insect that did the biting to the physician or ER.
My child was bitten or stung. What do I do?
Get your child in our office for testing immediately if they experience any of these symptoms:
- Fever or chills
- Swelling, particularly around the eyes and in the hands
- Fatigue or general malaise
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain
- Muscle, joint, bone or tendon pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Body aches
- Dark urine
- Cough, sore throat
A mild allergic reaction could range from a small red or white bump that itches to a scary-looking swelling that could be hard, itchy or look like a dark bruise.
Wash the bite with cool water and gentle soap before treating. Grandma knew her stuff when she dabbed calamine lotion on your bites back in the day. Calamine is still recommended, as is over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. For all-natural itch relief, make a paste of baking soda and water, apply it to bites and let dry. You can also try a washcloth rinsed in cool water and wrung nearly dry, or a cold pack wrapped in a clean cloth.
What are healthy ways to repel insects?
Dress your children in light-weight long-sleeve shirts and long pants in muted colors when you’ll be in wooded or grassy areas. Spread blankets or plastic for protection to avoid sitting directly on the ground or grass. Avoid scented shampoos, moisturizers or sunscreens. Keep your kids inside during the most active times for bugs, at dusk and at dawn.
Apply a repellant that includes DEET to all of your child’s exposed skin, including the scalp. Do not use DEET on children younger than 2 months. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a natural, non-toxic repellant, but not recommended for children under the age of 3 years old. Use repellant with Picaridin on children under the age of 6 months and drape mosquito netting to protect them in strollers or cribs.
As soon as you’re in for the night, wash all repellant from your child’s skin and hair with warm water and gentle soap. Do not put children to bed with insect repellant still on their skin.
If you have questions about summer bug bites – or any other aspect of your child’s health – call The Center for Advanced Pediatrics at 203-229-2000 or just click “Patient Portal” above. We will be happy to help your family really enjoy the summer!