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Normal vs. Allergic Reactions to Bug Bites and Stings
7/14/2017 7:10:56 PM
How will I know if my child is allergic to a sting or bite?

Normal vs. Allergic Reactions to Bug Bites and Stings

Beaumont Health

Normal vs. Allergic Reactions to Bug Bites and Stings


If you make it though childhood summers without getting bitten or stung by an insect, count yourself lucky.

Daniel Schnaar, M.D., is a Beaumont pediatrician. He said parents in his office frequently ask the same question: How will I know if my child is allergic to a sting or bite?

Start with the small bugs

Mosquitoes are the unofficial mascot of summertime. They don't sting, they bite.

"Allergic reactions are common with mosquito bites and usually happens in the first 12 hours," explained Dr. Schnaar. "The bite gets bigger, pink, itchy and warm. Getting bitten by a mosquito is not a serious threat for an allergic reaction."

Bug spray for childrenIf you are allergic to mosquito bites, the reaction will stay in the area of the bite. Reach for a cold compress, antihistamine such as Benadryl, and 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for itch relief.

More common than allergic reactions to mosquito bites are skin infections.

"We have seen an increase in skin infections in the office," said Dr. Schnaar. "What happens is your itch a bite with dirty hands and 24 to 48 hours after the bite, it's a darker red color, it's more painful than itchy and the redness starts to spread. If a bite increases in size after 24 hours and you see redness starting to spread away from the initial area, it's important to see your doctor to get an antibiotic."

On to the big insects

Larger insects such as bees, wasps and yellow jackets are another story. They have a stinger in their backend that's connected to an abdomen pocket full of venom. When you get stung, they inject the venom under your skin.

"The concern about the venomous insects is that some people develop an allergic reaction. When you have an allergy to the insect venom, the part of your body that got stung, will swell up. So, if you get stung on your leg, your whole limb might swell. You might also get hives all over your body, not just in the area of the sting, along with shortness of breath, trouble breathing, a swollen tongue and agitation. That's more serious and deserves a call to 9-1-1."

A normal reaction to a sting includes pain in the area and a slightly swollen bump. For those cases, a cold compress and a dose of antihistamine is all you need. However, you might not have a serious allergic reaction the first time you're stung. It could take two or three times before your body fully reacts.

If you do get stung, remember to scrape or flick the stinger out of your skin. Don't use tweezers to pull it out because you could squeeze more venom from the stinger into your skin. Use your finger nail, a credit card or something with a dull edge instead.

Prevention is the best antidote to summer bug bites, though, so get out the bug repellent, be aware of your surroundings and remember to have fun.

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