How to Treat Insect Bites in Toddlers
If your child has been bitten by an insect, he or she may have a mild or severe reaction. Mild reactions can be treated with general techniques (as described in Method 1) or by identifying the bite and using methods to combat that specific insect’s venom (Methods 2 and 3). If you think your child may be having a severe reaction but you are not sure, you will find information regarding the symptoms of a severe reaction in Method 4. Take your child to the hospital if these severe symptoms are occurring.
Using General Treatment Methods for Bites that are Not Severe
Understand that treatment is generally symptomatic.In general, treatment of insect bites in toddlers is symptomatic, meaning you treat the symptoms caused by the bite, like itching, rather than the bite itself.
- In general, these symptomatic treatments include washing the bite and applying soothing lotions. These will be covered in the following steps.
Keep your child from scratching the bite, regardless of what insect bit him.Try as much as possible to prevent your toddler from scratching the affected area because scratching the bite can make the itching worse, and may cause an infection if your child manages to break the skin.
- Try to keep your child from scratching bites on the arms and legs by dressing him in long sleeves and long pants. If the bite is on his feet or ankles, put socks on your child.
Apply topical corticosteroid cream to the bite.Topical corticosteroid creams are used to control inflammation at the bite area, and itching.There are several types of corticosteroid creams that range from very potent, to less potent. The one you choose to use will depend on your toddler's specific bite.
- Examples of corticosteroid creams that you may use for your toddler are Aveeno, Bactine, Cortaid and Dermolate. Apply the cream to the area one to three times a day. Apply a small “dot” of cream and spread it over the affected area.
Try calamine lotion.Calamine lotion is an over-the-counter lotion used most commonly to relieve pain, itching and minor skin irritation caused by insect bites. Apply the cream one to three times a day. You can use a cotton pad to apply the cream. Allow the lotion to dry completely on the skin.
- Do not get the calamine lotion in your child’s eyes, nose, or genital area.
Place an ice pack on the bite.You can use ice wrapped in a cloth or a cold compress to relieve the itching sensation caused by the bite.However, do not apply ice directly to your child’s skin, as the ice can burn your child’s sensitive skin.
- Hold the cold compress to the bite for 15 to 20 minutes.
Consider giving your child antihistamines.In rare cases, you may need to administer medications such as oral antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl). This, however, should only be used if your child is having an allergic reaction to the bite.
- Talk to your doctor before giving your child antihistamines of any kind. There are child-friendly antihistamines available at most pharmacies.
Recognize symptoms of a mild reaction, regardless of the type of insect.Most insect bites will usually only result in mild local reactions that are contained within the area where the insect bit or stung your toddler. Among these reactions are:
- Itching: this is the most common manifestation of an insect bite and happens because your body attempts to combat the poison or saliva of the insect. Your child's body releases histamine, which can create an intense itching sensation in the spot where the insect bit your toddler.
- Swelling: this occurs directly over the bite site. Swelling is also a result of histamine being sent to the area to combat the toxin released by the insect
- Redness: your toddler’s body will also send blood to the area, which will cause the bite site to turn red.
Identifying the Insect Bite
Recognize the infamous mosquito bite.One of the most common types of insect bite that you will encounter is that of a mosquito bite. Mosquito bites will generally last for 2 to 15 days. Symptoms of a mosquito bite include:
- A red, raised bump that forms at the bite site.
- Itching and tenderness in the area of the bite.
Look for flea bites.Fleas are small insects that are most commonly found on pets. If your toddler has been bitten by fleas, you should be able to find multiple, grouped red bumps that each have a central puncture bite.
- Flea bites are also extremely itchy.
Recognize bee, wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket sting marks.When a bee stings, the stinger generally falls off the bee and remains in the skin. Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets, on the other hand, can sting multiple times because they do not lose their stingers. Regardless of which insect stung your toddler, the sting itself will be very painful.
- The area may also become swollen and red. Gradually the spot where the stinger went in will turn white.
- If your child is allergic to bee stings, you should get him or her to the hospital immediately. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives, difficulty breathing, the throat and tongue becoming swollen, dizziness, weak heartbeat, nausea, and loss of consciousness.
Combat pesky deer flies.Deer fly bites are painfulbecause this sort of insect has a sharp, knife-like mouth. The bite may become red and swollen. Deer flies live in moist damp environs like wetlands and forests.
Look for pustules caused by fire ants.Fire ants latch on to the skin with their jaws and then sting the person they have attached on to. Both of these acts can be extremely painful and can be described as a ‘burning’ sensation, which is why they are called fire ants.
- Their bites may also cause pustules or pimples to form at the bite site.
Consider whether the bites could be from bed bugs.Like fleas, bedbugs are tiny parasitic insects that are often found in peoples’ beds. Bed bugs don’t really pose a health threat because they are generally not thought of as disease carriers, but their bites can be very itchy and annoying.
Treating the Bite Based on the Type of Insect
Treat a mosquito bite.Mosquito bite symptoms, such as itching and inflammation, can be reduced when you apply calamine lotion to the bite spot. You can also rub an ice cube on the bite to numb the area so that your child won’t feel as much of an itching sensation.
- If you are in an area where mosquitoes carry dengue fever, monitor your child for 7 to 15 days. If your child develops a fever during that time, take your child to the hospital, as the mosquito may have been carrying dengue fever.
Apply a cold compress to deal with bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jacket wounds.If your child has been stung but is not showing signs of an allergic reaction, remove the stinger and then clean the site with water and soap. Apply a cold compress to the area. If the itching or pain is very bad, consider giving your child an antihistamine (for the itching) or ibuprofen (for the pain). However, consult your doctor about these medications before giving them to your child.
- If your child has an allergic reaction to the sting (as described in the previous method) bring him or her to the hospital immediately.
Try a topical cream for flea bites.Flea bites can be itchy and painful. To reduce these symptoms, apply a small amount of topical corticosteroid cream or calamine lotion to the spot.
- If your pet is carrying the fleas that bit your child, you can learn more about getting rid of fleas here.
Deal with a fire ant bite.First check to make sure that your child did not sustain multiple bites. If multiple bites occurred, seek medical attention. If your child was only bitten once, apply a cold compress to the area.You can also apply a topical antihistamine cream to the area, or you can use a corticosteroid cream.
- If your child is in a great deal of pain, consider giving him or her ibuprofen.
Clean a bedbug bite.If your child has been bitten by bed bugs, wash the site with water and soap. After the site is clean, apply calamine lotion or a local antihistamine cream to relieve the itching sensation that comes with bed bug bites.
Recognizing Symptoms of a Severe Reaction
Look for signs that your child is having difficulty breathing.When a child has a severe reaction to an insect bite, his respiratory airways may become constricted. This can cause the child to have a hard time breathing.
Ask your child if he is having difficulty swallowing.As stated above, a severe reaction can cause your child’s airways to constrict. This can also cause the child to have a hard time swallowing. Inflammation in the throat can also occur.
Use a thermometer to see if your child has a fever.Your child’s immune system will kick in when it realizes that venom has entered the body. The body fights off infection and other pathogens by increasing the internal temperature of the body, thus causing a fever.
- Fevers are body temperatures that reach above the normal 36.5 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Take your child to the doctor if you think he may have hypotension (low blood pressure).Hypotension occurs when the venom reaches the cardiovascular system and causes coronary spasms. These spasms occur in the heart’s arterial system (which includes the arteries). This can cause low blood pressure.
- Low blood pressure can lead to shock.
Take your child to the hospital if you see these symptoms.Immediate medical attention must be administered in severe reactions. Usually, anaphylaxis and these other severe symptoms develop within 5 to 30 minutes of the bite occurring.
QuestionWhat is the most effective way to treat a spider bite?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerApply topical antibiotics and ice. The ice will stop swelling and relieve pain, and the antibiotics will help with venom. If it is a poisonous spider such as a black widow or brown recluse, go to the ER.Thanks!
QuestionMy 2-year-old has eczema. and got a mosquito bite. She now has puss. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPut a topical antibiotic on the bite and it should go down. You also can let the bite soak in some warm water, or put ice on it.Thanks!
QuestionThe bite is red and itchy. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSeek the advice of a doctor.Thanks!
QuestionCan bath water burn bed bug bites?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, unless the water is scalding hot.Thanks!
- Always remember to check your toddler’s whole body for insect bites, especially after playing outside. Insects do not discriminate when biting or stinging and would bite anywhere in the body, not just the arms and legs that usually more exposed.
- If you think your child may have been bitten by a spider, rather than an insect, click here.
- Use pain relievers and antihistamines that are specifically designed for children.
- If your child develops a fever or any of the other symptoms listed in Method 4, take your child to the hospital immediately.
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