Insect Bite in Children

Insect Bite in Children

An insect bite can make your child’s skin red, itchy, and swollen. An insect bite is different from an insect sting, which happens when an insect injects poison (venom) into the skin.

Some insects can spread disease to people through a bite. However, most insect bites do not lead to disease and are not serious.

What are the causes?

Insects may bite for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Hunger.
  • To defend themselves.

Insects that bite include:

  • Spiders.
  • Mosquitoes.
  • Ticks.
  • Fleas.
  • Ants.
  • Flies.
  • Bedbugs.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Itching or pain in the bite area.
  • Redness and swelling in the bite area.
  • An open wound (skin ulcer).

In many cases, symptoms last for 2–4 days.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed with a physical exam. During the exam, your child’s health care provider will look at the bite and ask you what kind of insect you think might have bitten your child.

How is this treated?

Treatment for this condition may involve:

  • Preventing your child from scratching or picking at the bitten area. Touching the bitten area can lead to infection.
  • Applying ice to the affected area.
  • Applying an antibiotic cream to the area. This treatment is needed if the bite area gets infected.
  • Giving your child medicines called antihistamines. This treatment is needed if your child develops an allergic reaction to the insect bite.

Follow these instructions at home:

Bite area care

  • Encourage your child to not touch the bite area. Covering the bite area with a bandage or close-fitting clothing might help with this.
  • Encourage your child to wash his or her hands often.
  • Keep the bite area clean and dry. Wash it every day with soap and water as told by your child’s health care provider. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Check the bite area every day for signs of infection. Check for:
    • More redness, swelling, or pain.
    • Fluid or blood.
    • Warmth.
    • Pus.

Medicines

  • You may apply cortisone cream, calamine lotion, or a paste made of baking soda and water to the bite area as told by your child’s health care provider.
  • If your child was prescribed an antibiotic cream, apply it as told by your child’s health care provider. Do not stop using the antibiotic even if your child’s condition improves.
  • Give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child’s health care provider.

General instructions

  • For comfort and to decrease swelling, you can apply ice to the bite area.
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your child’s skin and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your child’s health care provider. This is important.
  • Keep your child up to date on vaccinations.

How is this prevented?

Take these steps to help reduce your child’s risk of insect bites:

  • When your child is outdoors, make sure your child’s clothing covers his or her arms and legs. This is especially important in the early morning and evening.
  • If your child is older than 2 months, have your child wear insect repellent.
    • Use a product that contains picaridin or a chemical called DEET. Insect repellents that do not contain DEET or picaridin are not recommended.
    • Avoid using a product that contains more than 30% DEET on a child.
    • Follow the directions on the label.
    • Do not use products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children who are younger than 3 years old.
    • Do not use insect repellent on babies who are younger than 2 months old.
  • Consider spraying your child’s clothing with a pesticide called permethrin. Permethrin helps prevent insect bites and is safe for children. It works for several weeks and for up to 5–6 washes.
  • If your child will be sleeping in an area where there are mosquitoes, consider covering your child’s sleeping area with a mosquito net.
  • If you have bedbugs or fleas in your home, get rid of them. You may need to hire a pest control expert to do this.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • The bite area changes.
  • There is more redness, swelling, or pain in the bite area.
  • There is fluid, blood, or pus coming from the bite area.
  • The bite area feels warm to the touch.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness and muscle pain.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child has neck pain.
  • Your child has a headache.
  • Your child has unusual weakness.
  • Your child has chest pain.
  • Your child has abdomen pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Summary

  • An insect bite can make your child’s skin red, itchy, and swollen.
  • Encourage your child to not touch the bite area, and keep it clean and dry.
  • If your child is older than 2 months, have your child wear insect repellent to protect from bites.
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