By Raising Children Network
spacer spacer PInterest spacer
spacer Print spacer Email
You can treat many insect bites and insect stings yourself – paracetamol or ibuprofen in recommended doses will often do the trick. But if your child has any kind of severe or unusual reaction to an insect bite or sting, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Ant bites

If your child has been stung by an ant, he might get some pain and swelling at the site of the sting. Ants can inject a type of venom with their sting, and they can sting several times.

Some children might be allergic to ant venom – they could develop a rash and have difficulty breathing. Some might collapse (this is known as anaphylaxis).

If your child has only mild pain and swelling, you can give her paracetamol or ibuprofen in recommended doses to ease the pain. Antihistamine medication from your chemist can help relieve itching.

If your child has a severe reaction to any kind of sting, take him to your GP or to the nearest hospital emergency department immediately. Remove the insect carefully first. If the insect is dead, keep it so your doctor can identify it.

Bee stings

Bee stings have barbs on the end of them, which stay in the skin with the venom gland. The bee dies after injecting the sting.

Your child will feel severe pain at the site of the sting, which will usually swell up very quickly.

If your child is allergic to bee venom, she’s at risk of a severe reaction to bee stings. She might develop a widespread rash, have difficulty breathing and collapse (anaphylaxis).

Remove the insect carefully. If it’s dead, keep it so your doctor can identify it. Avoid squeezing out the bee sting, because this will inject more venom into the wound. Instead, scrape the sting off if you can.

Apply ice to the area to reduce the swelling. You can give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen in recommended doses to ease the pain. Antihistamine medication can relieve itching.

If your child has a severe reaction to a bee sting, see your GP, go to your nearest hospital emergency department, or call an ambulance immediately.

Centipede bites

Centipedes bite using their front fangs. Their venom isn’t poisonous, but their bites can cause severe pain and swelling. Give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen in recommended doses. If the pain doesn’t go away, see your GP.

Flea bites

If you notice small, itchy red marks on your ankles or your children’s ankles, it’s possible there are fleas in your home.

Fleas can live in your carpet and furniture for several months, and can jump up from carpets in search of a warmer host.

Household pets are notorious carriers of fleas, especially in the summer months. You can buy special preparations to treat your pets for fleas, and you should also spray your carpets and furniture.

If you’ve moved into a new house and the previous owners kept pets, it’s a good idea to spray the carpet against fleas.

Mosquito bites

Mosquitoes are more of a problem in summer, and are more active at dusk and night.

Children who are sensitive to mosquito bites can develop very itchy red lumps around the bites. If children get mosquito bites on their faces, this can lead to a lot of swelling.

Applying calamine lotion to the area can help relieve the itch. Sometimes an ice pack can help reduce swelling. To prevent infection, try to stop your child from scratching at the bite.

If your child has severe swelling and itching around the mosquito bite, this might stop your child from sleeping. You can use an antihistamine to help your child sleep and to relieve itching.

Placing a net over your young baby’s cot is the safest way to protect him from mosquitoes. When taking your baby outdoors, make sure he’s dressed in light-coloured clothing with long sleeves and trousers.

Older children can apply insect repellent sparingly, but they should try not to get it in their mouths or eyes. Roll-on insect repellents are better than aerosols for children.

Spider bites

Australian spiders, apart from funnel-web and red-back spiders, aren’t known to be lethal. But their bites can cause severe pain and swelling.

If you think your child has been bitten by a spider, see your GP if:

  • your child’s pain persists
  • the bite looks infected
  • your child develops generalised symptoms including vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, sweating or headache
  • you suspect a funnel-web or red-back spider bite – if possible, keep the spider to show the doctor.

Wasp stings

Wasps are aggressive and can sting you many times during one attack.

Wasp stings usually cause pain and swelling, but allergic reactions aren’t common.

Remove the insect carefully. If it’s dead, keep it so your doctor can identify it. As with other stings, apply ice to the area and use medication, such as paracetamol and antihistamine, to reduce swelling and pain.

If your child has persistent pain, or develops sudden difficulty breathing after being stung, seek immediate medical attention.

Be careful about drinking straight from open soft drink cans if you’re outside. Wasps are attracted to sugar and might go into the can, then sting whoever drinks from it.

  • Last updated or reviewed 27-08-2015