Guest Author - Rebecca Spooner
As we spend time outside this summer, it is inevitable to encounter various bugs and insects. How do you prevent various bits and stings? What treatment should you use once you encounter a bite? When should you take your child to the doctor or emergency? These are all questions that can assault us as parents and it is important to be prepared and informed.
Although some bee stings can result in little more than some pain and a little swelling, others can swell drastically and depending on their location warrant an immediate visit to the ER. If either parent is allergic to bee stings, it is important to be aware that your children have a higher chance of sharing that allergy. Because of that, if your child has never been stung, observe the sting site carefully to make sure they are not having an allergic reaction. If your child has a reaction that is not too severe (aka swelling in the area the size of a tennis ball or larger) you should take them to the doctor to talk about prevention and treatment for future stings. If however, the sting is near the face or neck and your child shows any signs of distress (trouble breathing, loss of consciousness, etc.) call 911 immediately.
Mosquito bites are more annoying than dangerous. There are odd cases where the mosquito can carry a disease or virus such as west nile. However, these cases are very rare and the best prevention is to use a bug repellent that contains DEET to ward them off. Most people are slightly allergic to the saliva from a mosquito, thus resulting in the itchy red bump. However, some people have severe reactions that turn up within minutes of being bitten. These reactions include worsening asthma, hives, or anaphylaxis.
Ticks are small, hard beetle-like insects that attach to your clothing as you brush by trees and bushes. Many insect repellents are successful in keeping ticks away. When your children have been outside, the best solution other than prevention is to carefully check their clothing and skin to make sure that a tick is not attached to them. Rather than picking them off if you find one, heat a small pin and poke them with it. This will ensure that the entire tick comes out and that the head does not remain attached. If you know that your child has been bitten by a tick, take your child to the doctor immediately and be aware of the signs and symptoms to watch for that may indicate the tick was carrying lyme disease. Although these cases are rare, it is best to bring the tick in with you to the doctor so that it can be tested for lyme disease.
Overall, the best protection for your child is prevention (wearing insect repellent with appropriate DEET amounts) and wearing longer clothing. In the heat of summer, this is not always realistic. In that case, make sure that your children are aware of simple "bug safety" such as how to respond to a bee if it is buzzing around, to check themselves for a tick when they have been in the bush, etc. And, as with anything, if you are ever unsure, take them in to your doctor or pediatrician.