Is It A Bug Bite or Something Worse?

Summer time is all about being outdoors. The amazing BBQs, the long hikes, and fun campouts are all what makes the summer one of the best times of the year.  But you know what is not special or fun?  THE BUGS!  Although most insect bites and stings are harmless and do not cause any significant illness, it brings many parents to the emergency room with worries of sickness or infection. Most of the time, the bug bite causes some local irritation. However, in rare instances children can develop allergic reactions and skin infections. In addition, there are certain illnesses that can be transmitted through ticks and mosquitos. As a parent it is important to know when to worry and when to relax and simply treat with over-the-counter medicine.  Today we are teaming up with Know Your OTCs,  to tackle some common questions about bug spray and the dangers of insect bites.

Is DEET dangerous for my child? DEET is a chemical that is the the most common active ingredient in insect repellent. It is currently considered the best defense against insects. It’s repelling effect usually last between 2 to 5 hours depending upon the amount that is sprayed on and the percentage of DEET. DEET is actually a very safe agent when used on the skin. There has been no direct evidence that using DEET harms the body. There has been some reported allergic reactions to DEET when applied to the skin with bug sprays, but it is extremely rare. If you are going to use a bug spray with DEET, look for one that has a percentage of 10-30%. Do not use DEET containing insect repellents on infants less than 6 months old.

Does natural bug spray really work? Yes! There are many organic bug sprays on the market that work perfect for a day at the park or a BBQ. These sprays typically contain essential oils found in plants such as citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, or soybean. Natural bug sprays tend to work for a shorter duration of time and should be reapplied more frequently. In addition, its effectiveness against tick bites is not well established. If you are planning a hike in a wooded area, especially in a state that has ticks with reports of lyme’s disease, it is important to take this into consideration.

My child has a bug bite that is extremely itchy, what can I use to help soothe the itch? Most bug bites will cause local redness, itching, and discomfort. An over-the-counter cream or antihistamine is usually all you need to alleviate the symptoms! is an incredible resource for all over-the-counter medications. I love natural remedies such as baking soda, oatmeal, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil, to soothe the itch.

The bug bite has gotten increasingly more red and painful to touch, should I take my child to the doctor?  Yes!  We all have bacteria that is present on our skin. The most common skin bacteria are staph and strept. Typically they do not cause any harm or infection. However, when there is a break in the skin most commonly caused by a bug bite or scratch, the bacteria can get underneath the skin and can cause infection such as boils, abscesses, and cellulitis. Signs of infection are increasing redness, swelling, tenderness to the touch, and fever. A boil or abscess will present as a tender mass underneath the skin. It is important that if you child is displaying these symptoms, that you have him or her evaluated by their pediatrician.

My child got bit by a bug this morning and now has a full body rash? Is this normal? Sometimes children can have an allergic reaction to insect bites or stings. They can develop itchy red patches throughout their bodies with no other symptoms. Most often an over-the-counter antihistamine will help to relive the itch and temporarily resolve the rash. There are certain insect bites such as bee stings, fire ants, and wasps that if your child is allergic to, can lead to a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. This typically affects the skin, as well as breathing. Along with a rash, your child will complain of  difficulty breathing and chest tightness. This is a medical emergency and needs prompt intervention. If you have an Epi-pen, administer it immediately, and call 9-1-1 for help. It is imperative that if you child has a known life threatening allergy to certain insects, that you never leave home without their Epi-pen.

My child has a weird red circle that looks like a bull’s eye or target lesion? What could this be?  The early phase of Lyme’s disease is characterized by a flat, red ring or bull’s-eye rash. It  develops in 75% of those who have been bitten by a tick infected with Lyme disease. The rash tends to appear 3 days to 3 weeks after the bite and spreads outward. It is important that if you child has this type of rash, that you have him or her evaluated immediately, as early intervention is important.

My child was bitten by a mosquito and now has a full body rash and fatigue.  Should I be worried about Zika?  The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). This virus is transmitted by an infected mosquito of the Aedes aegypti species. Zika is a virus in the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya, and dengue. A person with this virus might also experience headaches or muscle aches. The symptoms typically last from 2 to 7 days. For most children, Zika is a self limiting illness that doesn’t cause long lasting complications. It is dangerous for a woman that is pregnant or planning on getting pregnant. If your child is having symptoms, it is important to have him or her evaluated by their pediatrician.

Most insect bites are harmless and do not cause any significant illness.  However, I always advise all parents that if they have concerns, they should always have their child evaluated by their pediatrician. Please remember to always apply bug spray on your child 15-20 minutes before going outside and wear protective clothing. Hope this helps you with your journey!

*Forever Freckled is a blogging ambassador for the CHPA Educational Foundation’s KnowYourOTCs program. All opinions are my own.*

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