“My two year old girl is highly sensitive to mosquito bites and always has huge red welts whenever she gets a bite,” says Maria’s mother. The child also becomes irritable and restless. “Whenever I hear a buzzing sound, it makes me nervous. We cannot enjoy the outdoor because of Maria.”
According to Dr Naila Mazhar, a pediatrician based in Lahore, insect, mosquito, bug and fly bites are common in childhood. Most bites occur at either dusk or dawn as they are highly active or charged during these times. It is even more common among children who spend most of their time outside in open areas. “You need to keenly observe the signs of reaction and infection when a child gets bitten by an insect. The reaction will depend on how sensitive a child is towards a particular insect.” Most insect bites recover with just rest and comfort. Mild swelling, small red bump or irritation is common. Sometimes the allergic reaction can be severe and even fatal.
According to American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI), fever, wheezing, trouble breathing, vomiting, abdominal pain, rashes, sleepiness, rapid heartbeat, swelling of lips, headaches, light sensitivity and confusion may be the signs of a serious problem. Most of the bites or stings cause small reactions that are confined to the area of bite. So, “if you happen to catch a mosquito munching on your munchkin, get it off from their skin with a gentle sweep of hand,” says Dr Naila. Although, stings and bites are unpleasant and painful but rarely are they dangerous. Some children have no reaction while others may experience swelling. Usually a bite produces a rapid local reaction with signs of swelling, itching and pain. Only a small percentage of children with an allergy history have severe symptoms. “If your little one is stung and develops a blister, do not burst it as it might get infected or can fill with pus and make glands swell and ultimately make you feel unwell. Blister usually does not cause pain unless ruptured,” explains the pediatrician.
Infection can even occur if the child scratches the bite. Some dangerous mosquitoes can cause malaria, dengue, and now zika virus as well. Stagnant water, high grass, weeds, floral gardens, uncovered food and open garbage cans are homes to bugs, insects and mites. As soon as your child has been stung by an insect, bee or mosquito, remove it by pressing it gently.
Prevention however, is the best approach in such cases. Apply mosquito repellants throughout your body and your child’s as well. But be careful in case of newborns or infants under three months of age. According to AAAI, for older children, use mosquito repellent with six to 25 percent Deet. It provides six hours protection. But do not overuse it. Be extra careful if you live in a mosquito prone area. Dress your child in light colored clothing that cover the whole skin especially when outdoors and restrict walking bare foot. Do not use scented soaps, lotions to attract bugs. Use a mosquito net if you and your child sleep in an open area. Keep your child’s fingernails trimmed to avoid scratching. Use mosquito repellants, sprays and coils in home before sleeping. Limit outdoor trips after sundown. Close all the doors and windows in evening. In case of a bite, apply a cool compress to avoid itching. Paste of baking soda and water also gives a good relief. Sometimes doctors prescribe antihistamines which can be effective. Watch the signs of infection. Visit your doctor immediately if the bite gets persistently red, swells, spreads, or rashes appear.
In case of a bee sting, first remove the sting as quickly as possible. Venom glands are always attached to the sting. If the sting is not removed it will continue to release venom in the body and cause swelling. Wash the affected area with soapy water. “Apply calamine or cold compress to soothe the wound. Sometimes doctors prescribe anti-allergic and pain killers as well,” says Dr Samia Latif, a pediatrician based in Multan. You can also rub onion on the area as a home remedy. Never disturb the honey bees or hives and cover food when eating outside.
In case of snake bites, never suck the venom from wound through the mouth as shown in films. It is fatal. Make the patient lie down and restrict the movement as moving can spread the venom quickly throughout the body. If fang (snake tooth/bite) is visible it means the snake is dangerous. “Rush to the doctor. Keep the bitten area below the heart level. This slows down spreading of poison to the heart. Snake venom spreads slowly so early intervention can be helpful. “Immediately, tie a band about two inches above the wound. It should be firm and tight to block the blood flow. Avoid walking. Do not use ice on the bite as it is not helpful,” suggests Dr Naila. Get him to hospital as soon as possible where anti-venom treatment can be given.
Your children are precious so protect them and take good care of them as prevention is better than cure.