Summer bugs love kids' soft, sweet skin. Simple measures — dressing your child in long pants and sleeves whenever possible, avoiding scented soaps and lotions and applying child-safe insect repellent — can go a long way toward protecting him. Still, sooner or later he's going to be bitten or stung.

The following guide can help you ease your child's discomfort and know when to seek medical care. If you see signs of the extreme allergic reaction called anaphylaxis — marked by trouble breathing or swallowing, wheezing, nausea, vomiting and a rash or hives — go to an emergency room right away. For more info, visit kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/insect_bite.html.

Mosquito

Bite: An itchy red bump that can vary in size and shape. A tiny hole will usually be visible in the center.

Treatment: Wash the bite with mild, soapy water, and hold an ice cube to it until swelling goes down. Anti-itch lotion, such as calamine, can help reduce irritation.

Bee, wasp and hornet

Sting: A red bump similar in appearance to a hive, only smaller. A dark stinger is sometimes still attached to the bite. Pain or stinging often accompanies a bee sting. Keep an eye out for allergic reactions.

Treatment: Using a credit card, scrape straight along the skin; this should remove the stinger. Try not to pinch the sting site; this could inject more venom. Use ice (ideally, for 15 minutes or more) to reduce swelling and tenderness, then apply anti-itch lotion, such as calamine.

Fire ant

Bite: It has a white, pussy, pimple-like appearance. Often, a cluster of stings will cover one area and most likely will be very painful.

Treatment: Wash with mild soap and water, then apply a topical antihistamine lotion, such as Benadryl, or ice to soothe the skin.

Warning: Fire-ant bites have the same potential to produce a life-threatening allergic reaction as bee and wasp stings. Get medical help immediately if you see signs of shock, nausea, severe rash or any difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Tick

Bite: A small black dot — the tick itself will still be attached to your child's skin. Lyme-carrying deer ticks are brown and not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence.

Treatment: With fine-tipped, clean tweezers, grasp the tick firmly, close to the skin, and pull its body away from the skin with a steady motion. (Don't squeeze the belly; you may release bacteria.) Once the tick is removed, wash the area with soap and water. If a deer tick is removed within 36 hours of biting, Lyme bacteria won't be transmitted, but watch for flu-like symptoms or a red bull's-eye-shaped mark over the next few days.

Spider

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Bite: Many will resemble a red-and-white bull's-eye. Rare but dangerous: The bite of a brown recluse spider will cause stinging and redness and form a fluid-filled blister. A black widow spider bite will produce intense pain, swelling and a faint red mark.

Treatment: For common spider bites, wash the area with cool water, and apply ice to reduce swelling.

For brown recluse or black widow spider bites, take your child to the emergency room immediately. These bites could be fatal. Apply ice to a black widow bite until the child arrives at the hospital.


This article first appeared in Parenting/Family Life magazine. © The Parenting Group

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