Bug Bites And Stings 101

Ahh, the sounds of summertime. Kids giggling, burgers sizzling on the grill, the chorus of tree frogs. . . the high-pitched whine of mosquitoes, the buzz of bees and “ouch!” when your little one gets bitten or stung.

Not every summer sound means fun and relaxation.

Here are tips and treatment for summer bites and stings.


While not all insect bites and stings can be prevented, here are some simple steps to keep the great outdoors a little safer:

  • Avoid wearing scented products like hairsprays, hair gels and perfumes.
  • Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing.
  • Wear shoes outside at all times.
  • Spray your -- and your child’s -- clothing with insect repellent made for children.
  • Watch open soda cans – bees can fly inside
  • Teach your child to avoid locations of hives and nests. If you spot one, have the nest removed by a professional.
  • Teach your child (and train yourself) that if an insect comes near, stay calm and walk away slowly. Do not slap at the insect.
  • See an allergist to determine if your child has an allergy to stings. If so, carry a bee sting kit at all times and make sure your child knows how to use it.
  • If your child has a known or suspected allergy to stings, have him or her wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants when playing outdoors.

Most bites and stings can be treated at home. Clean the area well with soap and water, and apply antibiotic ointment and/or hydrocortisone cream. If needed, use an antihistamine for itching or acetaminophen for discomfort. Apply a cool compress or ice pack wrapped in a cloth if desired.

When to Call 911

If you notice any of these symptoms soon after a bug bite or sting, it’s time to call 911:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • The feeling that your throat is closing
  • Swelling of lips, tongue or face
  • Wheezing or difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • A racing heartbeat for more than a few minutes
  • Hives
  • Dizziness, headache or loss of consciousness
  • Chills, fever or muscle cramps
  • Increasing pain and stiffness
  • Vomiting

What About Ticks?
If you or your child develops a red rash that looks like a donut or bullseye target after a tick bite, or a fever with a spreading red or black spotty rash. These can be signs of serious tick-related illness. Call your physician.

Test your knowledge about bug bites and stings with our online quiz. Learn more about bug bites and stings and their treatments at Health (e) Library.  Or view a video about allergic reaction anaphylaxis.


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