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Insect Stings and Bites in Children: Care Instructions


Stings from bees, wasps, ants, and other insects often cause pain, swelling, redness, and itching around the sting. They usually don't cause reactions all over the body.

In children, the redness and swelling may be worse than in adults. They may extend 8 to 10 centimetres (3 to 4 inches) beyond the sting.

If your child has a reaction to an insect sting, your child is at risk for future reactions. Your doctor will help you know how to treat your child's sting and best prepare for any future stings.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Do not let your child scratch or rub the skin around the sting.
  • Put a cold pack or ice cube on the area. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • A paste of baking soda mixed with a little water may help relieve pain and decrease the reaction.
  • Ask the doctor about giving your child an over-the-counter antihistamine to help calm swelling, redness, and itching. Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream may also help. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine for your child's allergy, give it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a shot of epinephrine for you and your child to carry in case your child has a severe reaction. Learn how to give your child the shot, and keep it with you at all times. Make sure it is not expired. If your child is old enough, teach them how to give the shot.
  • Go to the emergency room anytime your child has a severe reaction. Do this even if you have used the shot of epinephrine and your child is feeling better. Symptoms can come back.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think your child is having a severe allergic reaction.

After you give an epinephrine shot, call 911, even if your child feels better.

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over the body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or your child may feel very light-headed or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
    • Severe belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction not right at the sting or bite, such as:
    • A rash or small area of hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Mild belly pain or nausea.
  • Your child has a lot of swelling around the site of the sting or bite (such as the entire arm or leg is swollen).
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the sting or bite.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the sting or bite.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.