It’s The Season For Bug Bites & Stings

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Kid's Doctor

Posted on April 17, 2011 at 5:00 AM

Updated Sunday, Apr 17 at 5:01 AM

It’s that time of year when insect bites and stings start showing up on your kids. Knowing how to prevent and treat common insect bites and stings, and knowing when to not overreact, can help keep your kids safe and healthy.

Babies and children may be more affected by bites or stings than adults.

Let’s start with some common spring and summer insects.

Spider bites

Most spider bites do not actually penetrate the skin, and the majority of spiders found in the U.S are mostly harmless with the important exception of the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider, which are both dangerous to humans. Spider bites are fortunately uncommon. In many cases, presumed spider bites are actually due to another skin condition or an insect sting.

The black widow spider is said to feel like a pin-prick, and some victims do not even realize they have been bitten. Sometimes you may notice double fang marks on the skin. The most common symptoms where the bite occurs are immediate pain, burning, swelling, and redness. Other symptoms may include chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, and severe abdominal pain.

While black widow spider bites are hardly ever fatal, rare deaths have occurred from brown recluse spider bites and are more common in children than in adults.

At first the bite of a brown recluse spider leads to a mild stinging, followed by local redness and severe pain that usually develops within eight hours but may occur later. Some reports of brown recluse bites describe a blue or purple area around the bite, surrounded by a whitish ring and large red outer ring in a “bull’s eye” pattern. A fluid-filled blister forms at the site and then sloughs off to reveal a deep ulcer that may turn black.

If bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider

- Cleanse the wound. Use soap and water to clean the wound and skin around the spider bite.

- Slow the venom’s spread. If the spider bite is on an arm or a leg, tie a snug bandage above the bite and elevate the limb to help slow or halt the venom’s spread. Ensure that the bandage is not so tight that it cuts off circulation in your arm or leg.

- Use a cold cloth at the spider bite location. Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice.

Seek immediate medical attention. Treatment for the bite of a black widow may require an anti-venom medication. Doctors may treat a brown recluse spider bite with various medications.

Bee Stings

In most cases, bee stings are just annoying and home treatment is all that’s necessary to ease the pain. But if you’re allergic to bee stings or you get stung numerous times, you may have a more serious reaction that requires emergency treatment.

Most of the time the symptoms from a bee sting will be minor. Your child may experience a burning pain, a red welt, and slight swelling. Some children may have a stronger reaction with extreme redness and swelling that gets bigger over a couple of days.

Children, adolescents, and adults who are allergic to bee stings may have a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. About 3% of people who are stung by bees quickly develop these anaphylaxis symptoms.

- Skin reactions in parts of the body other than the sting area, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin (almost always present with anaphylaxis)

-  Difficulty breathing

-  Swelling of the throat and tongue

-  A weak and rapid pulse

-  Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

-  Dizziness or fainting

-  Loss of consciousness

-  Convulsions

-  Fever

-  Shock may occur if the circulatory cannot get enough blood to vital organs.

For most Bee stings you can apply an ice pack or cool compress, a meat tenderizer solution which can be made by mixing one part meat tenderizer and 4 parts water. Soak a cotton ball in the solution and apply to the bite for 15020 minutes. A baking soda paste works well or a topical anti-itch cream such as Calamine lotion.

Talk to your pediatrician about ways to prevent bee stings and possible immunotherapy if your child is allergic. Multiple stings can be a medical emergency in children, older adults, and people who have heart or breathing problems. If your child is allergic to bee stings always have an EpiPen available and use it right away as your pediatrician has directed.

Wasps, hornets, and yellow jacket stings are similar to bee stings.

Fire Ants

A bite that will get your child’s attention quickly belongs to the fire ant. Fire ants are so named because their venom induces a painful, fiery sensation. When disturbed, fire ants are very aggressive.

To help children avoid fire ants, parents should regularly check their yards and their children’s play areas for the presence of the ants and their mounds. Then they should either eliminate the ants or make sure children avoid them. If a child is stung, apply ice to the bite site for 10 to 15 minutes. Elevate the extremity where the child was bit.

Clean and clip the child’s fingernails to prevent any secondary infection that can result from scratching the bite. Check with the child’s pediatrician for the correct dose of an oral antihistamine to reduce itching and inflammation

A small percentage of children stung — probably less than 0 .5 percent — experience a severe (anaphylactic) reaction. These occur within minutes of a sting and vary in severity. A child who is stung and within minutes begins to experience hives, weakness, dizziness, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath or confusion should be taken immediately to the nearest emergency room. Watch the area for signs of infection over the next couple of days.

Ticks

Ticks are common in grasses and wooded areas. If you have pets make sure they are tick free. Ticks are usually harmless but they can carry Lyme disease. To remove a tick begin by taking a cotton swab or cotton ball. Dip the swab or cotton ball in a small glass container that you will be throwing out after use. Place a small amount of rubbing alcohol in the bottom of your container. Use at least 2 tablespoons of alcohol. Dab on the site of the tick on the child or pet. Do not let it run, that is why you are dabbing it rather than pouring it on the site. If there is excess, dab it with another cotton swab or cotton ball. Let this cotton ball or swab sit on the tick for 3 minutes. This suffocates the tick and he will back out for retrieval with tweezers. If that method is unsuccessful, use the alcohol swab again and let the area dry. Then take a clean, unused cotton swab and glob a dollop of Vaseline petroleum jelly on the site where you see the tick. Let this stay on top of the tick for 3 minutes. You will then remove the tick and the Vaseline petroleum jelly.

Mosquitoes

Probably the most common insect bite in the spring and summer come form mosquitoes.

Ivillage.com has these tips for treating and preventing mosquito bites.

The usual reaction is a local skin inflammation that is red, raised and very itchy. If your child scratches the bite, it may become infected as well. Here’s what you can do for your children to help ease the itch and pain caused by mosquito bites.

Treatments: Apply anti-itch creams like calamine as needed to help prevent scratching

• Use anti-inflammatory creams like cortisone cream to help ease the inflammation and itching

• If there is severe itching and multiple bug bites use antihistamines like Benedryl. Because they tend to make children drowsy, they work particularly well at night.

•  Antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec tend to be much less sedating, buit check with your pediatrician about the correct dosage and whether these products are safe for children.

Other Suggestions:
 Keep your child’s fingernails cut short to prevent scratching

• Apply cold wet compresses to the area to ease discomfort

• Have your child wear long pants and long sleeves (if the temperature is bearable)

• Make sure window screens are used if you keep windows open in your home

• Use insect repellant to help prevent bites from occurring

Choosing an Insect Repellant

DEET is the best insect repellant in terms of effectiveness against flies, gnats, chiggers, ticks and other insects. The higher the DEET concentration the better it works. For children, however, the EPA recommends a concentration of 10 percent or less to prevent side effects and toxicity.

Scorpions

Scorpion bites are painful but mostly harmless. The only dangerous scorpion in North America, probably the most venomous of all North American bugs is the bark scorpion.

Bark scorpions are found in all of Arizona, extending west across the Colorado River in to California and east in to New Mexico.

Scorpions are related to spiders, ticks and mites. Usually, they only sting to protect themselves or of they feel threatened. Scorpions can get caught up in bedding or crawl in to shoes so always check your child’s clothing and bed if you suspect scorpions may be around.  Scorpion stings without a serious reaction can be treated with ice on the sting and over-the-counter pain medication. Bark scorpion anti-venom is available only in Arizona. Any sting that shows signs of a bark scorpion needs to be treated at a hospital. Anti-venom has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of the sting.

Children love to be outside in the spring and summer when the daylight is longer and the backyard, playground, or campsite can become a magical play space. Insect bites are bound to happen. Most are just an annoyance, but make sure you know which ones to be concerned about and which ones may just require a hug and a kiss.

For pictures of several types of insects such as Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders, check out http://www.webmd.com/allergies/slideshow-bad-bugs

Brown Recluse spider Black Widow spider

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