First Aid

Insect stings and bites can be irritating. But in most cases, symptoms begin to disappear by the next day and don't need medical care. However, kids who are allergic to insect stings or bites might get life-threatening symptoms that need emergency treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

Of a mild reaction:

  • red bumps
  • itchiness
  • mild swelling

Of a severe allergic reaction:

  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • trouble swallowing or speaking
  • chest tightness, wheezing, or trouble breathing
  • dizziness or fainting

What to Do

If there are signs of a severe reaction:

  • If your child has injectable epinephrine (EpiPen), give it right away, then call 911. Tell them your child is having a life-threatening emergency. If someone is with you, have that person call 911 while you give the epinephrine.
  • If your child is conscious and you don't have epinephrine, give diphenhydramine (Benadryl or a store brand), then call 911 as above.

If there are no signs of a severe reaction:

  • If your child was stung and you can see the insect's stinger, remove it as quickly as possible by scraping the skin horizontally with the edge of a credit card or your fingernail.
  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply ice wrapped in a towel or cloth or a cool wet cloth to the area to relieve pain and swelling.

Get Medical Care if:

  • the sting or bite is near or inside the mouth
  • your child has a known severe allergy to a stinging or biting insect
  • injectable epinephrine (EpiPen) was used
  • the site looks infected (has increasing redness, warmth, swelling, pain, or pus several hours or longer after the sting or bite)

Think Prevention!

Teach kids to avoid:

  • walking barefoot while on grass
  • playing in areas where insects nest or congregate
  • drinking from soda cans outside (these attract insects)
Back to Articles

Related Articles

Summer Safety Center

Want to avoid summer hazards so you can focus on the fun? This center offers tips for teens.

Read More

Summer Safety

Keep the fun in summer by keeping your child safe in the sun, the water, and the great outdoors.

Read More

Hey! A Fire Ant Stung Me!

Fire ants think they're hot stuff. Learn how to handle them in this article for kids.

Read More

Hey! A Gnat Bit Me!

A gnat is a very tiny insect, no bigger than the head of a pin. Learn more about gnats.

Read More

Hey! A Flea Bit Me!

A flea is a small (no bigger than the head of a pin) brown bug with a hard shell. Learn more about fleas and how they affect you in this fun article just for kids.

Read More

How Can I Protect My Family From Ticks?

Find out what the experts say.

Read More

Hey! A Scorpion Stung Me!

Scorpions are about three inches long (about the length of a crayon), with eight legs and a small pair of claws that look like crabs' claws. Read all about them.

Read More

Are Insect Repellents With DEET Safe for Kids?

Find out what the experts have to say.

Read More

Bug Bites and Stings

Most bug bites and stings are just annoying. But some can cause infections and allergic reactions. It's important to know what to watch for, and when to get medical attention.

Read More

Hey! A Brown Recluse Spider Bit Me!

The brown recluse spider is one of six poisonous kinds of spiders in the United States. Learn more about the brown recluse spider.

Read More

A to Z: Insect Bites/Stings, Non-Venomous

Bites from non-venomous insects are the result of an insect attempting to feed upon a person's blood. Non-venomous means the insect does not inject poisons through its bite.

Read More

A to Z: Insect Bites/Stings, Venomous

Venomous insects bite or sting people as a way to defend themselves. They inject a poison (venom) into a person through their mouth or stinger which causes a reaction.

Read More

Can I Use Bug Killers and Repellents During Pregnancy?

Find out what the experts have to say.

Read More

Insect Sting Allergy

Insect sting allergies can cause serious reactions. Find out how to keep kids safe.

Read More

Bug Bites and Stings

Generally, insect bites and stings are harmless. Find out how to keep pests from ruining your fun.

Read More

Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis)

Kids with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The good news is that when treated properly, anaphylaxis can be managed.

Read More

Hey! A Mosquito Bit Me!

There are thousands of different kinds of mosquitoes in many different sizes and colors. Learn all about mosquitoes and how they bite you in this article.

Read More

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and