Avoiding insect stings may not always be possible. However, knowing how to respond if your child experiences an allergic reaction from an insect sting, could provide more peace of mind in the event of an emergency.
Insects that are members of the Hymenopteran family most commonly cause allergic reactions. These include the following:
- Yellow jackets
- Fire ants
For most children, when stung by an insect, the reaction is short-lived, with redness and swelling followed by pain and itching. Generally, the reaction lasts only a few hours, although some may last longer.
For others, however, allergic reactions to these insect stings can be life-threatening. This severe reaction is a medical emergency that can involve organ systems throughout the body. The reaction is called anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, and can include severe symptoms such as:
- Itching and hives over most of the body
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
- Difficulty in breathing
- Stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea
- Rapid drop in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
Immediate medical attention is required. Specific treatment for insect stings will be determined by your child's physician based on the following:
- Your child's age, overall health and medical history
- Extent of the reaction
- Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the reaction
- Your opinion or preference
Suggestions for immediate treatment for highly-allergic children include the following:
- When possible, immediately remove the stinger and scrape over the area with a fingernail. However, do not squeeze the area, which may force the venom into the body.
- An emergency treatment kit should be kept nearby at all times. Consult your child's physician about what it should include.
- Seek emergency care for your child as soon as possible.
Avoidance of insects is the best preventive measure. Suggestions for helping your child avoid insect stings include the following:
- When outdoors, make sure your child is careful of eating or drinking uncovered foods or beverages, which can attract insects.
- Keep your child from going barefoot. He/she should wear closed-toe shoes when walking in grassy areas.
- When playing outdoors, make sure you and your child watch for insect nests in trees, shrubs and flower beds. Other areas in which to use caution include swimming pools, woodpiles, under eaves of houses and trash containers.