Bites and stings
They’re running barefoot through the grass, patting dogs they don’t know and climbing creepy-crawly-infested trees –getting bitten and stung seems a rite of passage for kids.
Most bites will not be dangerous – although they will hurt and probably make them cry. The likely perpetrators are mozzies, bees, wasps, sand flies, sea lice and other insects.
Are they allergic?
All lumps and bumps from insect bites are allergic reactions. The size of the reaction depends on the degree of allergy your child has.
Occasionally children may have a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis . If this happens your child needs to be treated urgently.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis can include hives, itching, stomach cramps, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and swallowing, chokingand fainting.
As a general rule for repeated incidences of insect bites (like from mosquitos), the size of reactionsare largerin early childhood then slowly reduce as the childgets older.
In most incidences, if your child is stung or bitten by an insect, they can be treated at home without seeing a doctor. Here are some of the ways you can treat the injury:
- Wash the bitten area.
- Apply calamine lotion to help stop itching.
- Use ice packs or cool face washers to help with pain and swelling.
- For swelling and very comfortable itching,antihistamine medicine, such as Phenergan or Zyrtec, can be given. Talk to your pharmacist (remember, these can make children very sleepy).
- Strong steroid creams applied early and regularly onto the skin that wasbitten, canoften give relief. These creams will require a doctor’s prescription.
- For bee stings, scrape the sting off. Do not pull the sting out, as this causes more poison to be injected into the skin.
When to see the doctor
If your child has any swelling of the lips or tongue, or difficulty breathing, seek medical help immediately. Other times to see the doctor include:
- If there are any reactions in other parts of the body, such as hives.
- Your child has a lot of pain where they were bitten which does not settle down within a few hours.
- If the swelling or itching gets worse after 24 hours.
While most tick bites cause no problems, some can cause life-threatening diseases including paralysis, tick typhus, Lyme disease, and severe allergic reactions due to a toxin which is released into a person's body when the tick bites.
Treatment: It is important to remove a tick as soon as possible after locating it, grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and gently pulling out.
Every year about 13,000 dog bite injuries are treated in Australian hospitals – and children (particularly pre-schoolers) are at the most risk. Of those bites about 1500 are so serious that the victims will require surgery – 60% of these victims will be children under the age of 10.
Another interesting statistic is that 70% of these dog attacks take place in the child’s own home or in the home of a neighbour or friend.
Parents are encouraged to teach their children from a young age how to act around dogs and never to approach an unfamiliar dog. Children should also always be supervised around dogs.
Related first aid articles
- Dog bite and cat scratches
- Allergies and the immune system
- Pets and family health
- Understanding broken bones
- What to do if your child chokes
- Tackling scrapes and grazes
This article was written by Fiona Baker for Kidspot, New Zealand's best family health resource. Sources include SA Children and Youth and Women’s Health Service