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Most insect bites and stings are nothing more than irritating.  However, they can often become complicated in children who are highly allergic, or if an insect or spider is poisonous.  Around three percent of the population is allergic to insect stings, and approximately four people out of a thousand will develop a severe allergic reaction to an insect sting that could be life threatening. Most often, insect and spider bites or stings can be safely treated at home.  But you do need to monitor the situation closely.  Approximately 50 to 100 people die each year from severe allergic reaction, according to the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases. Wasps, bees, yellow jackets, fire ants and hornets all cause more deaths each year than rattlesnakes or other venomous creatures.

For insect stings or bites:

  • Remove the child from the area he or she was stung or bitten.
  • Try to locate the culprit. Especially if you suspect a spider bite, early identification of the insect in question can help determine the type of medical care needed.
  • If a stinger is visible, remove it by gently scraping the skin horizontally with the edge of a credit card or your fingernail. Bee stingers can continue to pump venom even after they detach from the bee.
  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply ice or a cool wet cloth to the area to relieve pain and swelling.
  • Honey applied to the sting area can relieve the pain.
  • If the area is itchy, apply a paste of baking soda and water, or calamine lotion. (Do not apply calamine lotion to the face or genitals.) Benadryl may also relieve localized itch.
  • Rubbing antiperspirant over the sting may reduce the effects of venom, since many brands contain aluminum compound.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock:

Many parents do not realize the child is allergic until they are stung for the first time and start to have problems.  Parents also need to be aware that a significant number of life-threatening reactions occur in children who had been previously stung without incident, but have since developed a severe allergy.  So parents need to stay vigilant and monitor their children for the following signs of severe allergic reaction:

  • Swelling of the face or mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Chest tightness, wheezing, coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Breaking out in hives.

If a child exhibits any of the signs of anaphylactic shock listed above, get them to a doctor immediately.  Death can occur within 30 minutes of the sting.

Seek emergency medical care if…

  • The child shows any signs of a severe allergic reaction
  • The bite or sting is anywhere in the mouth or eye
  • If the child has a known severe allergy to the stinging insect
  • If you suspect the child to be bitten by a Brown Recluse or Black Widow spider
  • The child experiences a rash or swelling after a spider bite
  • The child was stung by a scorpion
  • If a child has suffered multiple stings (ten or more).


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