How to deal with bug bites — tips from AboutKidsHealth

Over the next few months, CAPHC Conversations will be featuring articles and resources from the AboutKidsHealth website.  For more information on AboutKidsHealth, check out their website, or contact Sean Schurr at

We wait all year to enjoy summer activities, but one pesky thing can prevent kids from enjoying the great outdoors: bugs.

Mosquitoes, bees, wasps, ticks and blackflies are just some insects that bite or sting. An insect will bite and sting either when it is feeding off skin — such as with mosquitoes — or to defend itself.

Certain insects can also cause anaphylactic reactions and transmit diseases.

How do you know if a child has a bug bite?

Insect bites have a redness and itchiness surrounding the bite or sting. Bites or stings will look like a small, raised bump, pimple, or blister, which can last anywhere between a few hours to two days.

If your child has a large bug bite, you can apply ice or a cold, damp compress to reduce swelling. If your child’s bites are still causing persistent itchiness, over-the- counter topical medications may help.

How to avoid bug bites

  • Move activities inside when insects are out. Kids have a greater chance of getting bug bites in the evening and night — and when the weather outside is warm and damp.
  • Opt for long pants and socks to cover up exposed skin.
  • Spray your child’s skin and clothing with insect repellent or insecticide.
  • While it is safe to use repellents with DEET on children, watch out for the concentration of DEET in the product.
    • Children aged six months to two years can use repellent with 10 per cent DEET or less if it is applied once a day.
    • Children aged two to 12 years can use repellent with 10 per cent DEET or less, no more than three times a day.
    • Children older than 12 can use repellent with up to 30 per cent DEET.
    • Do not use repellent with DEET on babies younger than six months old.

Allergic reactions

Certain children are at risk of having potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reactions from bug bites and stings, which are most commonly caused by bees, wasps and hornets.

Children who have anaphylactic reactions may break out in hives, experience swelling around their mouth or face, have problems breathing or collapse. If your child is having an anaphylactic reaction, call 911 immediately, and use an epinephrine auto-injector if your child has one with them.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by blacklegged or deer tick bites. If your child is going to be in tick-infested grass, carefully inspect their skin and clothing for ticks afterwards. Running shoes and socks — rather than open-toe sandals — will protect more of your child’s skin from ticks. Light-coloured clothing will also help illuminate any ticks that come into contact with your child, so you can remove them as soon as possible.

Remove any ticks gently with tweezers. Do not try to kill or crush any ticks that are on your child’s skin as it will increase the possibility of transmitting Lyme disease.

While children can recover from tick bites, if untreated, Lyme disease can lead to chronic health issues.

AboutKidsHealth is SickKids’ patient-education website and features more than 3,000 articles on a range of paediatric health topics. For more information on bug bites, Lyme disease, and other health-care topics, please visit


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