They are the buzz kills of summer: stinging and biting insects. Most of the time the rashes and stings are just an annoyance, but if your child is allergic to stings or is bitten by an insect carrying a disease, a little bug bite can do a dangerous amount of damage. Here is a rundown on treating bites from the most common bugs of summer.
If you plan to do any camping this summer or if your kids are spending a lot of time outdoors in woodsy or grassy areas, be mindful of ticks. Not all ticks carry diseases and most bites are not serious. But Ixodesscapularis, more commonly known as the deer tick, can transmit the Borreliaburgdorferi bacteria, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. If left undiagnosed and untreated, Lyme disease can cause a variety of more serious health problems, ranging from ongoing fatigue and arthritis to heart and nervous system problems.
If you find a tick, use a fine-tipped pair of tweezers to grasp it firmly and as close to the skin as possible, then pull its body away from the skin. Clean the bite area with an antiseptic.
Lyme disease has a variety of symptoms, and each person may experience his own unique set of symptoms. In general, though, about one to two weeks after a bite from an infected tick, a child may develop:
If you suspect your child is exhibiting Lyme disease symptoms, be sure to take him to the doctor. Prompt diagnosis and antibiotic treatment may prevent him from developing more serious long-term complications.
When a bee stings, it loses its stinger and dies. However, wasps, yellow jackets and hornets can sting multiple times. These insects can be especially dangerous to those who are allergic to their venom.
A normal reaction to these stings include pain, swelling and redness around the site of the sting. If your child is stung by a bee, use a fingernail or the side of a credit card to remove the stinger (do not use tweezers or your fingers, this can cause more venom to seep into the skin). Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets do not leave stingers behind. Wash the sting site with soap and water, and apply ice to the area.
Some children have a larger reaction that — while not an allergic one — can look alarming. For instance, the swelling may extend throughout a limb that’s been stung. Treat these reactions the same way you would a more limited reaction, but if your child is uncomfortable, call her doctor. The doctor may recommend prescribe antihistamines and steroids to reduce her discomfort.
An allergic reaction — also called anaphylaxis — is a medical emergency. If your child exhibits any of the following symptoms after being stung, get immediate medical attention:
These symptoms may occur from within minutes after a sting to up to 24 hours afterward.
The good news: Once your child has been diagnosed with a stinging insect allergy, an allergist can help determine what treatment is best to stop future reactions. Some children are given a shot of epinephrine (an EpiPen®) to carry with them in case they’re stung; others can undergo allergy shots, designed to boost their immunity to sting reactions.
Chiggers are the larval form of a certain family of mites called Trombiculidae. The bites are painless, but chiggers leave itchy, red welts on the skin. Itching peaks a day or two after the bite occurs. Any over-the-counter anti-itch medication, such as hydrocortisone cream, can usually relieve the symptoms. Take your child to the pediatrician if the welts become infected or they seem to be spreading.
Scabies is a very itchy rash caused by mites called Sarcoptesscabiei. When mites that cause scabies burrow under the skin, they can cause a big skin problem. Scabies can also be spread by skin-to-skin contact, and sharing bed linens, towels and clothing. Sores and intense itching appear several weeks after the mites get into the skin. The rash is usually seen on the sides and in the webs of the fingers, on the wrists, elbows, genitals and buttocks. You will need a prescription for lotion or pills to get rid of scabies. All clothing and bedding must be washed in hot water.
Mosquitoes are most active from the early evening to dawn. They also may be active during the day in areas with weeds, tall grass or bushes. If your child will be playing at dusk or in weedy areas, provide protective clothing and mosquito repellent DEET.
If your child is stung, you can help manage the symptoms by applying ice to the bite to relieve the itching and swelling.
Discourage your child from scratching, which can make symptoms worse and possibly lead to infection. Keep your child’s nails trimmed and try calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to relieve the itching.
Reviewed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD
Date: June 2012