previously published in KC Parent magazine (May 2011 issue)
Now that warmer weather is here, we must switch first-aid gears from frostbite to tick bites. Insect stings and bites are not only a pain (or an itch), but if not treated correctly, can be dangerous.
Stingers: (bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets)
Only bees leave their stingers in the victim, meaning these other flying menaces can sting repeatedly.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests, “Remove the stinger from your child’s skin as quickly as possible, thus minimizing the venom that enters the body.”
Using your fingernail, or a credit card, gently scrape across the stinger to remove the stinger/venom sac.
Most children have only localized redness and swelling. (see Anaphylaxis definition)
Biters: (spiders) Wash the bite with soap and water 2-3 times daily until healed. Apply cool compresses if warranted. Pain reducing medications are effective and topical antibiotics may also reduce infection. Dr. Megan Loeb, Leawood Pediatrics, says, “Most brown recluse spider bites resolve without problem. However, it can become ulcerated (becoming black in appearance) – then you need to see a doctor immediately.” Black widow spider bites are poisonous, causing painful cramps around the bite within a few hours. The cramps then spread away from the bite. If vomiting or fever is present, or you know your child has been bitten by this spider, a trip to the emergency room is mandatory.
Suckers: (ticks, mosquitoes) Nemours Foundation suggests if you find a tick on your child, use tweezers to grab the head, near the skin. Pull firmly until the tick lets go. DON’T twist or jerk to remove it. Swab the site with rubbing alcohol afterwards. DON’T use a lit match, petroleum jelly or alcohol to remove a tick. These methods may cause the tick to penetrate deeper and release more saliva, which is how tick-borne diseases are transmitted.
West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, and prevention is essential. Wear light colored clothing and use an insect repellent. Dr. Loeb says symptoms include “fever, muscle aches and lack of appetite. If your child seems confused, complains of a bad headache or other neurologic symptoms, they should receive medical attention.”
For venom allergies to occur, the child must previously have experienced a sting. If your child has been stung once with no anaphylactic reaction, it doesn’t mean allergic reactions won’t occur subsequently. Call 9.1.1 if you notice:
- swollen face or mouth
- difficulty swallowing, breathing
- chest tightness
Stacey Hatton is a pediatric nurse who seriously suffers from bug-a-phobia.