Family hiking through the forest

Mighty Blog

What parents need to know about insect bites and stings

Insect bites and stings are an uncomfortable part of Minnesota summers. But, because of the amount of snow we had last winter, Minnesota is seeing an increase in mosquitos and ticks. 

We’re sharing what parents need to know about bug bites and bee stings, and how they can be avoided. 

Insect bites and stings 

When an insect bites or stings, it injects venom or saliva into the skin, causing a reaction. This reaction is usually mild, causing redness, swelling, irritation or itching that will most likely go away in a few days. Wash the affected area with soap and water and apply a cold compress as soon as possible. If there continues to be a lot of pain, you can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen. 

If children scratch any bites or stings and break the skin, bacteria may enter the wound and cause an infection. Skin infections can be superficial with yellow crusty lesions called impetigo, or more serious infections deeper in the skin called cellulitis. If children do develop any signs of infection, they should see their pediatrician as soon as possible. 

Bee stings

Bee stings often cause immediate pain followed by a red bump. The discomfort kids experience after a sting usually goes away in less than 15 minutes; however, allergic reactions to bee stings can be severe. If your child has a known allergy, be sure to have an EpiPen accessible at all times. If your child is having an allergic reaction they may have a combination of hives, lip swelling, vomiting, or trouble breathing or swallowing. Severe allergic reactions should be seen in the emergency department. 

If the stinger is visible, you can try to rub it off with a flat edge—like a credit card—or pull gently with tweezers, but never try to squeeze or dig it out. If you have trouble removing the stinger, soak the area in water and let it come out on its own.

A family of four are hiking through the woods on a beautiful sunny spring day. The are walking on a footpath and there are green trees all around them.

Mosquito bites 

Mosquitos lay their eggs in water, making them difficult to avoid when spending evenings near a lake or pool; or being outside after it rains. Mosquito bites cause a small red bump on the skin that may be very itchy. Calamine lotion, or anti-itch gel or cream, such as hydrocortisone, can soothe itching from a mosquito bite. If there are multiple bites, you can use an oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl, to help decrease the itching. 

Tick bites 

Tick bites are often a big concern because they can transmit infectious diseases such as Lyme disease. Most tick bites, however, are harmless if removed from your child in a timely manner. Ticks are often found in wooded or heavily bushy areas but can be in grassy areas as well. They can climb onto someone if they brush up on tree branches or bushes, or crawl onto people from their pets. 

Parents should check children for ticks immediately after coming indoors, paying close attention to areas behind the ears, on the scalp, under the arms and in the groin area. Most tick bites will result in a small red bump. We recommend seeing your pediatrician if the area has increasing redness or pain, or if the child develops fever or flu-like symptoms. If the child develops a growing, target-like rash—also called erythema migrans—they should be seen as this rash is a sign of Lyme disease. 

Simple steps to remove a tick 

  • Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. 
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick, as this may cause the tick’s head or mouth to break off and remain in the skin. If the mouth breaks off, try to remove it; however, if it cannot be removed easily wait for it to fall out on its own, don’t dig it out. 
  • After removing the tick, clean the skin with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. 

How to avoid bug bites and stings 

  • Cover yourself with a long-sleeved shirt, hat and tuck your pants into your socks. 
  • Wear light-colored clothing in order to see ticks more clearly. 
  • Wear closed-toe shoes. 
  • Use insect repellent with up to 20% DEET. 
  • Stay on cleared trails whenever possible. 
  • For longer hikes and camping trips, consider treating equipment and clothing with permethrin. 
Kaitlyn Kamleiter