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Take the sting out of bug bites

How many times has the perfect summer trip to the beach or a barbecue in the neighbor's yard been interrupted by the cry of a child after he or she has been stung? Summer days go hand in hand with creepy-crawlers of all shapes, sizes and sting-ability. Knowing how to prevent and cope with insect bites will minimize discomfort and avoid more serious conditions.

Although bug bites and stings are generally easy to treat at home, infants and children may be more affected than adults and severe allergic reactions can develop. The following symptoms are a sign of a severe reaction requiring immediate emergency medical care:

  • difficulty breathing
  • a swelling of the lips or throat
  • feeling faint
  • feeling disoriented
  • hives
  • nausea, cramps and vomiting
  • a rapid heartbeat

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Most bites and stings are not serious and require only home treatment. Here are some treatments for common bites:

  • Bee stings - Try to remove the stinger by scraping or brushing it off with a firm edge, such as a credit card. Disinfect the area and apply hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or a baking soda paste to the sting several times a day until symptoms subside. To reduce pain and swelling, apply ice or a cold pack and take an antihistamine.
  • Spider bites - Clean the area with soap and water, apply a cool compress and keep the affected limb elevated to about heart level. If your child experiences any severe reactions, call your doctor or 911 immediately for further treatment.
  • Tick bites - You can prevent Lyme disease if you detect ticks early, since contraction is unlikely if a tick has been attached to skin for less than 48 hours. After your child spends time outdoors, thoroughly check his or her skin-both body and scalp-for ticks and rashes. If you find a tick, remove both the tick's head and body. Use tweezers and pull the tick straight out. Wash your hands thoroughly after removal.
  • Mosquito bites - Most mosquito bites do little more than cause itching, redness and general discomfort, but West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness. Thwart the breeding of mosquitoes by emptying standing water in your child's swimming pool and toys and pet dishes.

Follow these simple steps for prevention:

  • Apply insect repellent to all exposed skin, except near the eyes, mouth, open cuts or hands of small children, before heading to woods and grassy areas.
  • Select clothing that covers the body.
  • Refrain from using perfumed lotions or shampoos.
  • Use insect repellents that contain 10 percent to 30 percent DEET, and only apply once a day. Soy- and citronella-based products are also generally considered safe for kids.
  • Once home, wash off repellent as soon as possible.

Source: Dowden Custom Media. Published with permission.