Mother spraying childs arm with bug spray

Child Health, News | one month ago

Bug-Proof Your Summer: How to Keep Your Kids Safe from Ticks, Mosquitos and Other Insects

Keep your children safe from insect bites and stings this summer with helpful tips from an Atrium Health Levine Children’s pediatrician.

Playing outside is excellent for children’s health, but it can also lead to run-ins with mosquitos, ticks, wasps and other insects. Dr. Lyn Nuse, senior medical director of pediatric primary care at shares tips for keeping kids safe from bug bites and stings this summer.

Be mindful of insect bites and stings

“Outdoor play is one of the best parts of summer, but it also means kids — and their parents — can experience bites from insects like mosquitos, ticks, ants, spiders and more,” says Nuse. “The good news is that most of them cause only temporary discomfort, such as itching or bumps.”

However, some bites and stings can cause more serious symptoms.

“Some children are allergic to insect bites and can have large local reactions (particularly from mosquito or ant bites) or even anaphylaxis, a serious life-threatening reaction (especially from bee stings),” she says. “Tick bites can cause rare infections like Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease, which require medical attention and antibiotics to prevent severe disease.”

Additionally, certain spider bites — particularly those from a black widow or brown recluse spider — require immediate medical attention.

Protecting children from mosquitos, ticks and other insects 

Nuse recommends the following strategies to protect your child (and yourself) from insect bites and stings: 

  • Use an appropriate insect repellant. Look for an insect repellant that’s registered with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Apply insect repellant correctly. Follow all label instructions and apply only to exposed skin and clothing. If applying repellant to your child’s face, spray it on your hands first, then pat it onto their face. Don’t apply it to broken or irritated skin, underneath clothing or to their hands. If you use a spray, apply it in a well-ventilated area. Keep insect repellant away from young children’s reach.
  • Wear protective clothing. Dress your child in long sleeves, long pants, closed-toed shoes, socks and a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors for maximum protection. Tuck pants into your child’s socks. Avoid clothes with flowery prints or bright colors as they may attract insects.
  • Use mosquito netting. Protect babies by using mosquito netting over strollers and infant carriers.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings. Avoid conditions that favor insects, including garbage cans, pools of standing water, flower beds and tall grass/weeds.
  • Avoid scented products. To avoid attracting insects, don’t use fragranced perfumes, soaps or hairspray on your child.
  • Keep bugs outside. Ensure the screens on your home’s windows and doors are in good condition. 

“As soon as you get home from spending time outdoors, have your child strip down and head for the bath or shower,” she says. “Inspect their skin head to toe, including their scalp, looking for bites or ticks. Many people have recommended using a lint roller with sticky sheets to pick up small ticks on skin or clothing.”

How to treat insect bites at home

If your child is bitten or stung by an insect, here’s what Nuse recommends:

  • Mosquito bites or bee stings: If your child was stung by a bee, wasp or hornet, remove the stinger by scraping it off with a card or using a piece of tape. Apply hydrocortisone cream to the bite and give them a dose of an antihistamine to calm the itch. Applying ice can also help reduce swelling and itching. If your child is severely allergic to bee, wasp or hornet stings, they should be given epinephrine immediately following a sting. Then, you should call 911.
  • Spider bites: Wash the area with soap and water. You can relieve symptoms with an antihistamine medication, topical cream (like hydrocortisone), acetaminophen to reduce pain and ice or elevation to alleviate swelling. Most spider bites resolve on their own. If the bite develops a pustule (like a pimple), let it “pop” on its own.
  • Tick bites: If you see a tick on your child’s skin, use tweezers to grasp the tick’s head close to the skin, holding the tweezers sideways. Pull the tick straight upward and avoid crushing or twisting it. Wash the area with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment once.
  • Ant bites: Wash the area with soap and water. You can relieve symptoms with an antihistamine medication, topical cream (like hydrocortisone), acetaminophen to reduce pain and ice to relieve swelling.

When to seek medical care for insect bites and stings

“A large area of redness or swelling from a bite should be evaluated by your child’s physician,” says Nuse. “If your child experiences any symptoms that go beyond the bite area — such as wheezing, shortness of breath, swelling, abdominal pain, vomiting or pain extending into the muscles, chest or back — seek medical care immediately.”

You should also contact your child’s pediatrician if: 

  • You can’t remove a tick.
  • You notice signs of infection.
  • Your child develops a rash or fever within four weeks of a tick bite. 

If you have questions about your child’s health or how to treat an insect bite or sting, talk to their pediatrician or find an Atrium Health Levine Children’s pediatrician near you.