Developed by

Insect Bite

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Getting stung by a bee or a wasp hurts. A swelling appears where the child has been stung. The sting should be removed immediately. There is only reason to worry, if the child is allergic to bee or wasp. Call the doctor immediately, if the child shows signs of allergy or has been stung on the throat or inside the mouth.

All parents know about their children being bitten or stung by insects. Even though it hurts where the child has been stung or bitten, far most insect bites are completely harmless. There is only reason to worry in rare cases where the child is allergic to sting by bee or wasp.

Stinging insects like wasps and bees has a sting on the abdomen. The sting is connected to a small venomous bladder that is emptied into the skin and this hurts. The sting of the bee has barbs and therefore it remains after the bee has gone. If the sting is not removed, it will continue to pump venom into the child’s skin.

However, other insects can also bother the child. Mosquito, midges and clegs (called horse-flies) have no sting but their bite can be painful because their spit contains substances that irritate the skin.

The child can react in three different ways after being stung or bitten by an insect:

1) Normally

With far most children at sting from a bee or wasp triggers immediate crying. Near the sting a sore, red swelling appears that lasts for a few days. It may itch. The size of the swelling depends on where the child has been stung and how it reacts to the poison. If the child is stung on a finger, the swelling is not big because the skin is very tight there. If the child is stung on an eyelid, where the skin is looser, the swelling will be bigger. Some children react strongly to the sting, while others barely notice, however, this has nothing to do with allergies. The swelling may become quite large and can stay for several days without it matters.

2) Allergy

Only stings from bees and wasps can cause an allergic reaction. The allergy appears by heavy swelling, itchy red rash covering the entire body, difficulty with breathing and fainting. The first time a child is stung, the allergic reaction is not very violent but for every time the child is stung the reaction becomes more and more violent.

It can be hard to determine whether a heavy swelling is caused by allergy or just a violent reaction, because the child reacts violently or because the child is stung where the skin is loose. Only an allergy-test can reveal the answer.

If you suspect that the child is allergic to bee or wasp, the child should be examined by a doctor. If the child is allergic, the parents must procure a syringe with adrenalin for the next time the child is stung by a bee or a wasp. Usually, the child is allergic to either bee or wasp – never both.

There is also the possibility of vaccinating the child against bee or wasp. Such a vaccination against an allergy is very effective but takes several years to complete.

3) Inflammation

Both sting and bite can lead to bacteria crawling under the skin and cause inflammation. Inflammation appears by redness, warmth and soreness where the child has been stung. It is important to be aware that inflammation does not appear until a few days after the sting or bite, while the normal swelling appears few hours after the sting or the bite.

Click here to read about how you evaluate your child

What can you do?

The best but also the most difficult – is to avoid the child being stung or bitten. Be especially careful with sweet drinks, when you are outdoors, and fruit hanging from trees. Never try to hit an insect that may sting you. If the child has been sting, it is important to remove the sting and venomous bladder, if it remains, as fast as possible. Scrape off the sting with a nail, credit card or the blade of a knife. Do not try to squeeze the sting out since this will only cause the venom to be pressed further into the skin. At a pharmacy, you can by a device to help suck out the poison that is very effective. The device looks like a syringe but has opposite use. The device is placed over the sting and you pull the handle upwards to suck the poison out of the sting.

If the child has been bitten, the swelling can be diminished by cooling it with, for example, ice cubes in a tea towel.

Itch and swelling can be remedied by tablets of antihistamines that can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If the child reacts more violently to a sting than usual. Possibly, the child is developing an allergy towards bee or wasp.

If the swelling enhances after a few days and becomes redder, warm and sore. This can be sign of inflammation.

Contact the doctor immediately

If the child has been stung on the throat or inside the mouth – even though the child has no allergies. Swelling on the throat or in the mouth can cause trouble with breathing.

If the child has a red, itchy rash covering the whole body or has trouble breathing. This is sign of allergy.