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Offered by Brittany LaVoy, MD – Brighton Pediatrics, P.C.

BeeInsect bites are very common in the summer months. Reactions to insect bites can vary significantly in severity. Most cause a localized reaction at the site of the bite consisting of redness, swelling, itching and sometimes pain. This swelling can range from mild to significant in appearance. It will usually increase over the first 24-48 hours after a bite and then decrease over the next 24-48 hours. Hives can also be seen as a reaction to insect bites, especially in children aged 2-10 yrs. They can last for a few days or even up to a week in some cases. The worst reaction is an anaphylactic reaction leading to swelling of lips or tongue and trouble breathing, but this is very rare.

What should you do if your child has an insect bite? First, clean the area with soap and water. If swelling or significant itching occurs, oral Benadryl and topical hydrocortisone can be used to help with these symptoms. Non-drowsy antihistamines such as Claritin or Zyrtec can also be used in older children rather than Benadryl. In most cases, this is all that needs to be done. Symptoms should improve over the next few days. It is important to note that this initial swelling and redness is not due to infection, but rather is due to the body’s normal inflammatory reaction to an insect bite. Children with severe allergic reactions with swelling of lips or tongue or trouble breathing should be immediately taken to the ER for treatment. If significant swelling occurs or the redness and swelling is worsening 2-3 days after an insect bite rather than improving, the area should be examined by your child’s pediatrician for possible infection.

The best way to prevent insect bites and stings is to use insect sprays and if possible wearing long sleeved shirts and pants. Insect sprays containing at least 10% DEET are most effective and are safe to use as directed in children 2 months of age or older.

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