Insect Stings and Bites in Children: Care Instructions

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Your 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 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 call line 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.
  • After you check with your doctor, give your child an over-the-counter antihistamine for swelling, redness, and itching. These include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), loratadine (Claritin), and cetirizine (Reactine). Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream may also help.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine for your child's allergy, give it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her 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 him or her 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?

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.
  • Your child seems to be having a severe reaction that is like one he or she has had before. Give your child an epinephrine shot right away. Get emergency care, even if your child feels better.

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

  • Your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction away from the bite or the sting, such as:
    • A rash or small area of hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • 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 call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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