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Insect Bites and Your Kids: When to Visit the Doctor

bug biteInsect bites are one of the least desirable encounters we have with nature’s creatures. Most of us have been bitten or stung by a mosquito, spider, bee, or other insect. It’s itchy, it’s painful, and it’s annoying. Children seem especially prone to insect bites because they often play outdoors and they’re less cautious than adults.

As a parent, you’ll definitely deal with insects biting your children. But how do you best treat the bite? When should you visit a doctor or urgent care center? Here is some helpful information.

Mosquito bites

When your child gets a mosquito bite, first apply ice to prevent itching and swelling. Then, put hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion on the bite to reduce itching. Be sure to tell your child not to scratch it!

If the area becomes red, swollen, warm to the touch, or if there is pus, head to an urgent care center or clinic. While it’s highly unlikely your child will get West Nile Virus, watch out for symptoms which include headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Spider bites

Spiders are scary, but most don’t bite—and when they do, it’s relatively harmless.

If you suspect your child was bitten by a spider, first wash the area several times a day until the bite heals. To avoid infection, apply an antibiotic cream or make sure your child keeps his hands clean. If the area hurts, give your child a child-appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Call your doctor or take your child to urgent care if there is redness, swelling, pus, or the area is warm. While most spiders are harmless, there are a few (including the brown recluse and black widow) that are highly poisonous. A brown recluse bite may cause swelling, a change in skin color, and/or a blister. The bite of a black widow can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and muscle aches.

Bee and wasp stings

First, remove the stinger as quickly as possible. Then, gently wash the area with soap and water. Apply ice or a cold washcloth to the area for several minutes. If your little one is in pain, give her a child-appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If she is itching, ask your doctor for an over-the-counter antihistamine, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.

If your child is bitten in the mouth, take her to urgent care immediately; the mucous membranes can swell to the point that they block airways. Also seek medical treatment if your child shows any signs of anaphylaxis, which includes:

  • wheezing or trouble breathing
  • swollen lips, tongue, or face
  • hives, flushed or pale skin
  • rapid or weak pulse
  • dizziness or fainting
  • vomiting

In many cases, a shot of epinephrine is used to relieve symptoms immediately.

The buzz on bites

Insect bites are no fun. Fortunately, most of the time they are harmless and simply an annoyance for a few days. Remember, if the area becomes red, swollen, or is warm to the touch, call your doctor or take your child to urgent care. If symptoms are more serious, head to urgent care immediately.

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