As the weather becomes warmer, the risk of bug bites and stings increases. Although most bug bites are harmless, some can cause serious illness. The number of people who have contracted diseases from infected mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas has tripled in the past 13 years. Here’s what you need to know to be prepared.

Protect Your Child from Biting and Stinging Bugs

You can prevent many bug bites and stings by taking these simple steps:

Dress Your Child to Protect Against Mosquito and Tick Bites. If your child is going to be playing in a wooded area or an area with tall grass and weeds, dress her in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Choose shoes with closed toes instead of sandals. Tuck the shirt into the pants and the pants legs into the socks. This will protect most of the child’s skin.

Apply insect repellent. When you know your child will be exposed to mosquitos or ticks, apply insect repellant on uncovered skin. Go to the EPA website for a list of registered insect repellents that contain ingredients proven to be effective. Don’t choose a sunscreen and bug spray combination product. To be effective, sunscreen must be applied in a thick layer and reapplied at least every two hours. Many bug sprays work for a much longer time and should be applied sparingly. Some products contain ingredients that shouldn’t be used on children younger than 3 years old so check the label.

Wear outdoor clothing that has been treated with permethrin. You can buy clothes for outdoor wear that have been treated with permethrin, an insect repellent. There are also products available for applying it yourself.

Inspect play areas for insects. Check your child’s play area for nesting insects and fire ant mounds. Look for stinging insects swarming around a trash can or discarded food. In your yard and home, dump out items that hold standing water, such as trash bins, flowerpots, toys, and pools. This will stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water.

Monitor your child’s activities outside. Kids love bugs and want to play with them. Monitor your child’s activities to make sure she is safe. Don’t let her play with spiders, catch bees, or pick up biting and stinging insects.

Keep your pets up to date on their flea and tick preventive medicine. Fleas and ticks transmit disease. Talk to your veterinarian about the most effective prevention treatment for your pet. Give pets their medicine as directed.

Be Prepared with First-Aid Supplies

Some bites and stings itch. Others cause pain, swelling, or a rash. Put together your bug bite first-aid kit ahead of time so that you can treat a bite or sting promptly. Here is what to include:

  • Soap and water. It is a good idea to the wash injured area with soap and water. This may flush away some of
    the venom. First, wet the area. Gently rub with soap, then rinse with lots of water.
  • Anti-itch ointment. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises using an over-the-counter anti-itch product, such as hydrocortisone, if your child wants to scratch the bite.
  • Antihistamine. You may also give your child an antihistamine to help with itching. Be sure to read the label and choose a product that is indicated for your child’s age.
  • Pain killer. For stings or painful bites, you may use an over-the-counter painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow dosing directions on the label.
  • Ice pack. Apply an icepack to reduce swelling or help alleviate pain. If you are at home, a bag of frozen peas makes a great ice pack substitute.
  • Tweezers, tape. If your child is stung, check the area to see if the stinger is still in the skin. You may need to use tweezers to pull it out. Some people apply a piece of tape to the area and then lift it off to remove the stinger. If your child has a tick attached to her skin, use tweezers to remove it. See “How to Remove a Tick” on the website.
  • Small plastic bag. If possible, place the bug in a plastic bag. This will help healthcare providers identify the toxin if your child needs medical help later.
  • Epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen). If your child has known allergies to insect bites and stings, she should have an epinephrine autoinjector available for immediate use wherever she goes—this includes at home, school, sports events, afterschool activities, and friends’ houses.


Brenda Schoolfield is a freelance medical writer who splits her time between Austin and Seattle.



Get Medical Help for These Symptoms

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends immediate emergency care for anyone who has one or more of the following symptoms after a bug bite or sting:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling in the face, lips, or tongue
  • Chest pain or racing heartbeat that lasts for more than a few minutes
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness or headache
  • A red, donut-shaped rash in the area of a tick bite
  • A red or black spotty rash that spreads in addition to a fever


If you have been bitten or stung, see a dermatologist if you develop a rash, headache, fever, or body aches or if you feel tired all the time.

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