Ant bites

If your child has been stung by an ant, he might get some pain and swelling where he has been stung. 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, have swelling of the tongue or throat, and have difficulty breathing. Some might collapse. These could be signs of anaphylaxis, which requires urgent medical attention.

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 pharmacy can help relieve itching.

If your child has a severe allergic reaction to any kind of sting, remove the insect carefully and then call an ambulance immediately – phone 000. If the insect is dead, keep it so your doctor can identify it.

Bee stings

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

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.

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

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 off the sting 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 allergic reaction to a bee sting, call an ambulance immediately – phone 000.

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. You can apply ice to the bite. 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.

You can buy special preparations to treat your household pets for fleas. Pets can carry fleas, especially in the summer months.

You should also spray your carpets and furniture. Fleas can live in your carpet and furniture for several months, and can jump up from these places onto humans. 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

Allergic responses to mosquito bites can vary a lot. Some 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.

It’s rare for mosquitoes to carry diseases in Australia.

Applying calamine lotion or a fragrance free, non-irritating moisturiser regularly to the area can help ease the itch. Sometimes an ice pack can help reduce swelling.

Your GP might prescribe a corticosteroid ointment to help with itching.

Many of the antihistamine creams you can buy from your pharmacy can cause allergic reactions so are best avoided.

If your child has severe swelling and itching around the mosquito bite, it might stop your child from sleeping. Antihistamine tablets or syrup can help reduce itching, and some might help your child to sleep. But check with your GP or pharmacist about whether these treatments are appropriate for your child’s age.

To prevent infection, try to stop your child from scratching at the bite. It might help to keep your child’s fingernails short.

Placing a net over your 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.

If your child is older than one year, you can apply a small amount of insect repellent. The most effective ones contain an ingredient called DEET. Repellents with up to 10% DEET are OK for children.

Try to keep insect repellent away your child’s mouth, eyes and any broken skin. It might be better to use a roll-on rather than a spray. You can also apply repellent to clothing rather than directly to the skin. Some insect repellents can stain or damage fabric so test the repellent on some fabric first.

Mosquitoes can be a problem in summer, and they’re most active at dusk and night. It’s best to take extra care at these times.

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 starts to feel unwell or has 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 can sting 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. Apply ice to the area and use medication like 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.