Caring for Summer Bites and Stings

Summer brings warmer weather—and more bugs. Learn how to distinguish between stinging bugs and harmless insects and spiders.

Bugs have a bad reputation. Many people fear any type of creepy-crawly, but most insects play an important role in our ecosystem. Teach your child which bugs are generally safe and which ones they should avoid.

Mainly Harmless Critters

  • Bees. Most bees won’t pay attention to you—their main goal is to pollinate. Common pollinators you’ll encounter include honeybees, carpenter bees and bumblebees, and they often don’t sting unless they feel threatened. Bee stings are fatal only to those with an allergy.
  • Spiders. Of thousands of spider species, only a few in the U.S., including brown recluse and black widow spiders, have a venomous bite. Most other spiders are harmless.

Biting and Stinging Bugs

  • Fire ants. Red fire ants are the most aggressive type and will band together to attack any threat to their home. Ants inject formic acid into the skin, which can cause swelling, itchy blisters and possibly an allergic reaction.
  • Mosquitos. Mosquitos can carry diseases, such as West Nile virus, which could transfer through a bite and make a child sick.
  • Ticks. Ticks can carry a number of harmful diseases, such as Lyme disease. These diseases can be transmitted when an infected tick bites a person.
  • Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets. Unlike bees, these insects are very aggressive and often unpredictable. When they sting, they inject venom into the skin that causes pain and can be fatal to those who are allergic.

Caring for a Bite or Sting

If your child has an unfortunate encounter with a stinging insect or venomous spider, here are some ways to care for the injury:

  • Remove any stingers from skin as soon as possible.
  • Wash the area with soap and water to prevent infection.
  • Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling.
  • Use a pain reliever to help with discomfort.
  • Immediately take your child to the emergency room if you suspect an allergic reaction.
  • Visit a doctor if a bite is accompanied by severe pain or skin that turns dark or black. Brown recluse spider bites may require medical wound treatment and/or antibiotics.



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