Insect bites and stings in children are part and parcel of living in the tropics. In general, these little critters will leave you alone if you leave them alone.
But, children (being inquisitive) may sometimes suffer from insect bites and stings. Especially if they let their curiosity get the better and move in for a closer look at the bug in question.
Then there are also insects such as mosquitoes. Their natural tendency is to bite warm human flesh. And we all know the possible dangers to health such as dengue and Zika that may go with these bites.
What can you do at home about insect bites and stings in children, and when should you see a doctor? How do you remove a bee sting or a tick? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more in this article.
An insect bite or sting, while generally not dangerous, can be irritating and painful for your little one.
Symptoms of Insect Bites and Stings in Children
The type of reaction a child will have to different kinds of insect bites and stings depends on several factors, including:
- Location of insect bite/sting. A sting or bite on a child’s face (eyelids and lips) will have a more significant reaction than a sting on a child’s foot. A bite on the neck or mouth can have severe consequences. Something related to breathing and swallowing should be immediately checked.
- Child’s history of allergies. If your child has allergies, he may have severe anaphylactic reactions to some insect bites and stings. This warrants immediate medical attention.
- Presence and/or amount of toxins. Your child’s reaction to an insect bite may also depend on if the insect injected toxins. Or it could be other irritants.
The following are some of the most common symptoms of an insect bite and stings.
- Immediate localised reactions: swelling, itching, redness, warmth, pain.
- Delayed reactions (occasional): hives (or other similar rash), fever, joint pains, swollen lymph nodes.
Types of Insect Bites and Stings and What You Should Do
1. Mosquito Bites
Mosquitos can give your child a virus, such as dengue. The danger of mosquitos is not just from the bite itself, but from the viruses, they can spread.
Mosquito bites are usually not harmful. But the bigger risk is that mosquitoes can spread dangerous viruses like dengue or Zika.
Prevention of Insect Bites and Stings
- Use a good mosquito repellent or mosquito-repelling patch on your child. Especially when heading out at dusk or early in the morning when mosquitoes are most active. It is best to always have a mosquito repellent or patch on. If there is an outbreak of diseases spread by mosquitoes, it’s best to have this.
- If you don’t want to use mosquito sprays or lotions with chemicals, look for one that uses essential oils like citronella and lemongrass. These are excellent natural mosquito repellents.
- If you are taking your child out during the evening, night or other times when mosquitoes are active, cover his body as much as possible. Examples of these are loose, long-sleeved cotton tops and long cotton pants. Choose light-coloured clothing. Mosquitoes are more attracted to dark or brightly coloured clothing.
- Cover your child’s bed with a mosquito net to prevent those nighttime bites.
- Do not let water in and around your home accumulate and become stagnant. It becomes an easy breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Some children don’t notice mosquito bites. But others react with terrible itchiness, redness and bumps. If your child reacts badly to mosquito bites, try these home remedies to bring about relief.
- Apply ice on the bite to prevent itching and swelling. Never place ice directly on the bite; wrap it in a cloth first.
- Rub some calamine lotion o the bite for soothing relief.
- Ensure your child cannot scratch the bite but cut his nails short. Scratching could result in infection.
2. Sand Fly Bites
Sand flies are tiny and hard to spot. It’s because of their size and sandy colour, which helps them merge into their sandy habitat.
You can find them on beaches or wherever there is sand; generally, many of them will bite in one go. These insects are usually active at dawn and dusk.
A sand fly bite is like a mosquito bite, except it is much itchier and takes longer to go away. You’ll probably find your child’s (and your) legs under attack from these tiny creatures. As they cannot fly very high.
While the bites are irritating, they are not harmful. You can prevent sand flies from biting your child. Use the same methods you would prevent mosquito bites. Home treatment methods are also the same.
Bedbugs are tiny insects whose food source is the blood of humans and other mammals. You can find them in warm, dry places like mattresses, rugs and sofas, and they usually bite at dawn.
Their bite is painless, so it will not wake your little one. But the bite results in very itchy bumps. You will see itchy red or pink bumps. It’s in lines or clusters on your little one’s skin when they wake up.
The bite is harmless, as bedbugs are not known to carry any blood-borne diseases. But the itchiness can be distressing for your child. Plus scratching at the bite may result in a secondary infection.
Bedbug bites will usually appear in a cluster or straight line.
- The best form of prevention is to stop these insects from entering your home in the first place. If you are travelling with your family, always check the bed in which you’ll be sleeping. Check for signs of these insects, as can hitch a ride home with you if present.
- Pull the mattress back, look for bugs in the slats of the bed, and check for tiny blood spots on the mattress or linen.
- Please do not place your luggage on the bed until you have examined it for bedbugs.
- Always put your family’s used clothes in separate plastic bags. Wash them as soon as possible after returning home.
- Take care when purchasing second-hand furniture items. Before bringing them into your home, always scrutinize them. Especially if they are wood.
- Air your pillows and mattresses often. Also, get your mattress cleaned often by professionals.
Handling a Bedbug Infestation
- Vacuum mattresses and all parts of the bed frame to remove bugs and eggs.
- Use mattress covers labelled as ‘anti-dust-mite’ or ‘anti-allergy’. This helps to prevent bed bugs from making your mattresses their home again. Keep these covers on, as adult bed bugs can survive a year or longer without a meal.
- Wash all bedding in hot water and then dry on a high heat setting in a dryer. Place pillows in the dryer for about 20 minutes on a high heat setting or buy new ones.
- Vacuum all carpets, rugs and curtains and dispose of the vacuum contents in a sealed bag. Get rid of the bag as soon as possible.
- If the bedbug infestation is nasty, call a pest control company to end them.
- Wash the bites with soap and water. Then apply calamine lotion, anti-itch cream or cool compress to soothe the itchiness. The bites should clear up in a week or two.
- Prevent your child from scratching the bites, which may cause a secondary infection.
- If you think the bites look infected or have not cleared up in a week or two, see a doctor for advice.
4. Bees and Wasps
Image Source: iStock
When a bee or wasp stings, it pumps venom into the body through its stinger.
Bee and wasp stings can be excruciating. In some instances, dangerous to your child’s health. Especially if they have a history of allergies. The longer the stinger stays under your child’s skin, the more venom is released. So it’s crucial to get it out as soon as possible.
- Remove the stinger by scraping it with the edge of a credit card or another straight-edged object.
- Do not pinch the stinger or use tweezers to remove it. It could inject more venom.
- Ice the area. Remove any tight-fitting jewellery. Such as bracelets or rings your child might be wearing if the sting is on a finger or arm. These may be difficult to remove if the affected area swells up.
- If the sting is on an arm or leg, elevate the limb.
- Give the appropriate dose of baby/children’s Panadol if your child is in pain. Use calamine lotion on the affected area or a baking soda and water paste. It’s to draw out any remaining venom and soothe the sting.
- Keep the site clean to prevent secondary infection.
These little blood-suckers infest pets and can migrate to your child’s body from them.
Ticks may transmit diseases. One tick brought into the house may result in an infestation. As the female can lay thousands of eggs after feeding in dark corners and crevices of your home.
Because of this, always treat your pets for ticks and fleas, keeping them clean and groomed.
Ticks attach themselves by burying their head under the skin and feeding. Once engorged with blood, they drop off.
While they can attach themselves to any part of the body, they particularly like dark, warm crevices. such as the creases of the ear (or inside it), armpit, groin, belly button and back of the knees.
Call a professional pest control company to deal with tick infestation.
It’s important to remove the whole tick from your child’s body, without leaving its head or fangs under the skin.
Removing a tick and bite treatment
If your child complains of pain or itchiness in any of the areas mentioned above. Especially after playing with an animal or outdoors, examine them for ticks.
If the insect is already engorged, it’s pretty easy to spot. But if it has attached itself, it will still be small, and you’ll have to look more to spot it.
To remove a tick:
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Do it with a pair of fine-point tweezers and pull back slowly in a straight line without twisting.
- Do not grasp the skin by its body as you risk leaving the head/fangs inside the skin. Also, if you squeeze the body, infected fluid may enter your child’s body.
- If you cannot remove it, or if your child is distressed or won’t stay still enough for you to remove it, head to your doctor. They will be able to get rid of the insect for you.
After you remove the tick, wash the area with soap and water. Then clean the bite site with a topical antiseptic lotion.
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When To Seek Medical Attention
Take your child to the doctor immediately if:
- They have a history of allergies and have been stung by a bee or wasp.
- Your child does not have allergies but has been stung or bitten inside the mouth or on the neck.
- They have an anaphylactic reaction. It usually starts within 20 minutes. And not more than two hours after the bite or skin. You’ll notice swelling in the lips, tongue or face. And difficulty breathing or swallowing. You may also see hives on your child’s body.
- They have severe pain or pronounced swelling and redness at the bite/sting site.
- Develops fever or the bite/sting looks infected after a few days.
- They have been stung by more than five bees/wasps at one go.
- Develops enlarged lymph nodes or joint swellings.
Parents, do remember that most insect bites and stings are harmless in general.
But please take the necessary precautions. Don’t let your child go barefoot on grass and other steps outlined in this article. When heading out or after your child has played with pets or animals prevent bug bites and stings.
Image Source: iStock
This article contains information based on the author’s research. For any health issues or concerns regarding your child, please seek a professional medical opinion without delay.
Updates by Pheona Ilagan
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