What to Do For Insect Stings or Bites

Article at a Glance
• Most insect stings or bites are mild and are easily treated at home.
• If your child has a severe reaction to a bite or sting, call 911 right away.

Usually insect bites or stings are mild and symptoms only last a few days. But if your child is allergic, they can be life threatening. Depending on your child’s reaction you will need to take one of the following courses of action.

A mild reaction might involve red bumps, itchiness, or mild swelling.

1. Remove the insect’s stinger if visible by scraping along the skin horizontally with your fingernail or a credit card. Do not pinch the stinger as this could release more venom into the skin.
2. Use soap and water to wash the affected area.
3. Apply a cold compress of ice or cold water to reduce pain and swelling.

A severe reaction could include difficulty speaking or swallowing, swelling of the face or mouth, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or fainting.

1. Call 911 if you notice any signs of a severe reaction. If your child has an injectable epinephrine (EpiPen), follow the instructions and use it as soon as possible. If not, give your child diphenhydramine (marketed as Benadryl) if still conscious.
2. Call a doctor right away if the sting or bite is inside or by the mouth; your child has a known allergy to the insect; an EpiPen was used; or the site looks infected. A good way to avoid being bitten or stung is to not walk barefoot, steer clear of places where insects like to nest, and not drink from pop cans outside.

For more information:

Insect Stings and Bites (KidsHealth.org)

Bug Bites and Stings (KidsHealth.org)

Insect Bites and Stings: First aid (Mayo Clinic)

Share this article:

Stay connected to your children’s health:

Want pediatric news, kid-friendly recipes and parenting tips?
Sign up for our patient parent newsletter:

Other great ways to connect: