Summertime is full of outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking and picnics. It is also a time when insect bites are more prevalent. Kids spend more time outdoors in the summer and insect bites are a frequent summertime problem for parents. They sometimes go unnoticed by the parent and the child, until the next day, when they become itchy, painful, or swollen.
The most common insect bites are mosquitoes, fire ants, chiggers, and fleas. These insects typically cause itchy raised red bumps. They can vary in size from a tiny dot to a larger bump (up to 1/2 inch in size).
Mosquito bites often have a red dot in the center of the bump and can cause persistent itching. They typically cause more swelling than other bites, especially near the eye or on the eyelid, and can remain swollen for a few days. They usually occur on the body in areas that are not covered by clothing. They are more common than other insects, especially near standing water and tall grass. In some children, mosquito bites may form a hard lump that can last for months.
Flea, chigger, and fire ant bites tend to be red raised pinpoint bumps. They are often very itchy and occur on the body in areas that are covered with clothing. It is more uncommon for then to cause swelling unless your child has an allergic reaction to them. In young children, flea bites may look like a small blister. Fire ant bites are usually immediately painful and turn into blisters or pimple-like bumps within a few hours.
Most insect bites can be treated at home. For itchy bites, apply calamine lotion or a baking soda paste to the bite. If the bite remains very itchy, an OTC (over the counter) 1% hydrocortisone cream can be applied sparingly three to four times a day for a few days. Do not use topical Benadryl cream. It can be absorbed through the skin causing side effects and is not recommended for routine treatment of bug bites. An OTC oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl, may be recommended for insect bites that cause severe itching, severe swelling, or allergic reaction.
Painful insect bites can be treated by soaking a cotton ball in a baking soda solution and applying to the insect bite for 20 minutes. You can also apply moist cold compresses or ice on the bite for up to 20 minutes. Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen can also be used as directed by manufacturer for relief of painful insect bites.
To help prevent insect bites, keep the body covered In lightweight clothing when outside. Keep yard grass trimmed and avoid areas with tall grass and standing water. Many bites can be avoided by using an insect repellent such as DEET. When using insect repellents, follow the recommendations of the manufacturer and the following precautions:
- NEVER use in infants < 2 months of age.
- DO NOT put insect repellent on or around the eyes or mouth.
- DO NOT apply to the hands of children. (They may suck on their thumbs or fingers and/or accidentally rub their eyes)
- DO NOT apply to any area that has skin breakdown, rashes, or sunburn. These areas may absorb the repellent into the skin more easily and can cause irritation and toxicity.
- DO NOT apply insect repellent more than once per day.
- It is especially important to wash the insect repellant off of your children when they return inside for the day.
Most insect bites can be treated at home, but prevention is the best solution. Children over the age of two months should always use an insect repellent when outdoors, especially during the summer months.
All insect bites that do not improve with home treatment in one to two days, should be evaluated by a health care professional. If you notice rapid swelling, an increase in redness or swelling, red streaks or signs of allergic reaction, seek medical care immediately.
Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care opened in 2006 in San Antonio, Texas. With multiple locations in San Antonio and Dallas, they are open seven days a week with extended evening hours and see walk-in patients or through an online check-in system. They accept walk-ins until 30 minutes before close. They accept most commercial insurance and Medicaid plans. More information about Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care can be found at www.littlespurspedi.com.