Insect Bites/Stings and Repellant

Insect Repellant and Prevention and Treatment of Insect Bites and Stings

Your child’s reaction to a bite or sting will depend on her sensitivity to the particular insect’s venom.  In general, insect bites for most children cause only mild reactions that can be irritating but not a serious problem. While it is true that most stings (ex honey bees, yellow jackets, wasps, and fire ants) may only cause pain and localized swelling; there are some individuals who are severely allergic to these insect stings  and can have severe symptoms that require immediate treatment.  Ticks can carry disease that can be transmitting to humans.  In the Northeast US, the most common problem is Lyme Disease.

TreatmentIn the woods

Although insect bites can be irritating, they usually begin to disappear in the next few days and do not require a doctor’s treatment. To relieve the itchiness that accompanies bites by mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and bedbugs, apply a cool compress. If your child is stung by a wasp or bee, soak a cloth in cold water and press it over the area of the sting to reduce pain and swelling.   Do not use creams or lotions containing antihistamines or home remedies. If the itching is severe, one may give oral antihistamines like Benadryl or Claritin.

Keep your child’s fingernails short and clean to minimize the risk of infection from scratching. If infection does occur, the bite will become redder, more swollen and painful. In some cases, you may notice red streaks or yellowish fluid near the bite or your child may get a fever. Call your pediatrician for any signs of an infected bite, because the child may need to be treated with antibiotics.

Call for medical help immediately, if your child has any of these severe symptoms after being bitten or stung:

  • Sudden difficulty in breathing
  • Weakness, collapse, or unconsciousness
  • Hives or itching all over the body, not just isolated to the site
  • Extreme swelling near the eyes, lips, or penis that makes it difficult for the child to see, eat, or urinate


It is impossible to prevent all insect bites, but you can minimize the number your child receives by following these guidelines.

  • Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as garbage cans, stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and sweets, orchards and gardens where flowers are in bloom.
  • When you know your child will be exposed to insects, dress her/him in long pants and a lightweight long-sleeved shirt.
  • Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints, because they seem to attract insects.
  • Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes, or hair sprays on your child, because they also are inviting to insects.

Insect Repellents

Insect repellents are very helpful, but they should be used sparingly on infants and young children.  The most useful insecticides include DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide).

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used in children over six months of age have up to 30 percent DEET applied once before going outdoors. These repellents are effective in preventing bites by mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and biting flies, but have virtually no effect on stinging insects such as bees, hornets, and wasps. Contrary to popular belief, giving antihistamines continuously throughout the insect season does not appear to prevent reactions to bites.

Tick bites

Deer ticks can carry the bacteria for Lyme disease.  However a tick has to be embedded in the skin for at least 24 hours and probable 36 hours to pass this illness to the patient.  Please, check your child/yourself at the end of the day for tick bites.  If one has an embedded tick, simply remove it as below.   You do not need to save the tick, but rather watch the area of the skin bitten.  In the first few days, the bite will look like a normal mosquito bite that will fade over the next week.   This is normal and no treatment is needed.  If the bite starts expanding with an enlarging red area after the first week, please call.  This could be the beginning of Lyme disease, which is easily treated with oral antibiotics.

Removal of Ticks

Grasp the tick firmly with tweezers near the head and gently pull the tick straight out.  DON’T remove ticks with matches, lighted cigarettes or nail polish remover.

(Recommendations per The American Academy of Pediatric and Community Pediatrics of Andover)