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Insect Bites

By Mark Domet, M.D.

Insect Bites image

Itchy, red bumps are a problem that can be caused​ by bites from mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas, bedbugs or a host of other insects. While bites usually do not lead to an emergency situation, it can be helpful to know what insect caused them so you know how to relieve your child’s discomfort and prevent future bites.

Identifying the Different Types of Insect Bites

Parents often have a hard time determining what kind of insect caused the wound on their child. However, knowing the culprit can be helpful in deciding how to treat the bite.

  • Mosquito bites cause itchiness and a raised dot in the center of swelling. These bites usually occur in the summertime and on body parts not covered by clothing.
  • Bites from fleas and bedbugs also cause itching. Because these insects cannot fly, they tend to leave red bumps on body parts under clothing. Flea bites commonly turn into blisters or pimples.
  • Bites from horseflies, deerflies, gnats, harvester ants, blister beetles and centipedes result in painful red bumps instead of itching.
  • Fire ant bites also cause painful red bumps and will turn into blisters or pimples within two to three hours.

Treating Insect Bites

Insect bites are treated differently depending on the type of discomfort they cause.

  • If a bite is itchy, apply calamine lotion or a baking soda paste to the area. Chigger bites can cause extreme itchiness, so it may be necessary to purchase over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream and apply it two to three times a day.
  • To relieve itching, encourage your child to apply firm, direct pressure to the bite. Insect bites can become infected and leave scars when picked at or scratched.
  • If a bite is painful, rub the area for 15 to 20 minutes with an ice cube or a cotton ball soaked with meat tenderizer or baking soda. Do not use this technique if the bite is near the eye.
  • If pain from a bug bite is causing your child excessive discomfort, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be administered.

Preventing Insect Bites

To prevent pesky bites from most insects, be sure to apply insect repellent to clothing and exposed skin before going outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk. Non-DEET or low percentage DEET products are safest, especially for young children.

Flea bites can be prevented by having your pets treated by your veterinarian or cleansing the pet with flea powder or soap. Daily vacuuming can get rid of any fleas that remain.

Bedbugs can be eliminated with the help of a licensed exterminator.

When to Ask a Doctor About Insect Bites

Call your child's physician during office hours if you have questions or if the itching or pain continues to be severe after treatment. If a bite increases in tenderness or swelling, or has red streaks, pustules or drainage, it may be infected, and you should call or see a medical professional immediately.