Bugs and Other Creepy Crawlies
Bugs, both inside and outside the home, are inevitable this time of year. To help minimize the chance of bugs biting your child, keep shallow, standing water away from your home and close the screens on windows and doors. Parents can also dissuade creepy crawlies from taking a bite out of their little ones by avoiding the use of scented soaps or other products, since the fragrance can also attract insects.
Be mindful when using bug repellant with your baby or toddler. The AAP recommends that even older children not use insect repellants that contain more than 10 percent DEET (the chemical can be harmful if too much is absorbed through the skin or accidentally ingested). Instead use citronella-based bug repellant on your child (California Baby makes a 30 SPF sunscreen with bug repellant). When applying insect repellant, spray it on your child's clothing to prevent the repellant from being absorbed directly into skin.
"Most bites don't require medical attention," says Dr. Joseph St. Geme, director of infectious disease at St. Louis Children's Hospital, "but if the area of swelling, redness and tenderness is spreading, parents should seek medical attention."
Parents should check their children nightly for bug and tick bites during the spring and summer months. Look for white or black lesions, drainage from a lesion, difficulty sleeping, a crater at the center of a bite (may indicate a spider bite), fever, and excessive swelling. Dr. St. Geme suggests, "Look at the scalp, in skin creases and along the shoe or sock line. Also watch for flu-like symptoms and rashes that may develop." These symptoms may indicate that a tick has bitten your child.
If your child has trouble breathing, seems confused, has difficulty swallowing, vomits, or faints after a bug bite or bee sting, call 911 immediately.
If a bee stings your child, check immediately to see if the stinger is still implanted. If it is, you can use the edge of a credit card, or another hard flat surface, to scrape it out. Avoid squeezing the stinger as that will release the serum. Wash off the wound and apply baking soda and saltwater paste to relieve the pain. Watch infants carefully and contact your pediatrician.
To soothe the annoying itch of mosquito bites, apply ice to the bite (wrapped in a cloth or plastic bag). Administering a one-percent hydrocortisone cream may also lessen the itch. Some mothers also swear that a bit of breast milk rubbed on a mosquito bite can decrease the itch and speed up healing.
If your child has the unfortunate experience of being bitten by a tick, quickly remove the tick with clean tweezers. To do this, carefully grab the head and pull in a smooth, continuous motion straight away from the bite area. Check to be sure that you don't leave the head of the tick in the wound; this can cause infection. Cleanse the area thoroughly with soap and water.
Don't be afraid to get outside and enjoy the spring with your little one. Walking, hiking, picnicking, exploring the backyard, puddle jumping, or just resting under a tree with a nice book are all fun activities to share with your infant or toddler. Pack up the mosquito net and sunscreen, don a sun hat or raincoat, and enjoy this time of natural growth and rebirth with your child.