Insect Bites and Stings

Bug bites and stings are usually just bothersome, causing temporary discomfort and pain, but no serious or lasting health problems. But sometimes, they can cause infections that require treatment and allergic reactions that can be serious, even fatal.

Parents should know the signs of an infection or allergic reaction, and when to get medical care. Inform all caregivers if a child has any history of problems so they know what to do in the event of a bug bite or sting.

Below you’ll find what to do for specific types of insects and how to provide home care and what to look for in case of a more serious reaction:

Stinging Insects

What to do if your child has been stung:

  1. Look at the site and check to see if the stinger is still in the skin

    • ​A bee will usually leave behind a stinger attached to a venom sac.

    • Try to remove it as quickly as possible using a scraping motion, without pinching the venom sac at the end. Scrape the skin horizontally with the edge of a credit card or your fingernail.

    • Wasps do NOT leave their stingers in the skin after stinging, which means they can sting more than once and will chase after their target

  2. Apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or a cold, wet washcloth for a few minutes.

  3. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.

    • For pain and itching, give an over-the-counter oral antihistamine if your child’s health care provider says it’s OK; follow dosage instructions for your child’s age and weight. You could also apply a corticosteroid cream or calamine lotion to the sting area.

  4. A sting anywhere in the mouth needs immediate medical attention because this can quickly cause severe swelling that may block airways.

  5. Get medical care if you notice a large skin rash or swelling around the sting site, or if swelling or pain lasts for more than 3 days, which could be signs of an infection.

  6. The following signs may indicate a serious or potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Use an epinephrine auto-injector if it’s available, and call 911 right away if you notice:

    • wheezing or trouble breathing

    • tightness in throat or chest

    • swelling of the lips, tongue, or face

    • dizziness or fainting

    • nausea or vomiting

  7. If your child has had an allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting in the past, see your health care provider for a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector.

  8. Think Prevention! Avoid:

    • walking barefoot while on grass

    • playing in areas where insects nest or congregate

    • drinking from soda cans outside (these attract insects)

    • Check for hives and around where kids are playing,                                                                    especially in corners and hidden crevices of play equipment and the house itself

Common stinging insects that are found in Florida include bees, wasps, yellow jackets, and mud daubers. Look for their specific nests to better protect yourself and your kids!

  • Honeybee 
  • Wasp
  • Yellow Jacket
  • Mud Dauber
  • Beehive
  • Wasp Nest
  • Yellow Jacket Nest
  • Mud Dauber Nest

Sting Checklist


Mild reaction:

  • red bumps

  • itchiness

  • mild swelling

Severe allergic reaction:

  • swelling of the face or mouth

  • trouble swallowing or speaking

  • chest tightness, wheezing, or trouble breathing

  • dizziness or fainting


  • If there are signs of a severe reaction:

    • Give Epinephrine (EpiPen) right away, then call 911. Tell them your child is having a life-threatening emergency. 

    • If your child is conscious and you don’t have epinephrine, give diphenhydramine (Benadryl) then call 911

  • If there are no signs of a severe reaction:

    • Remove the stinger

    • Wash the area with soap and water.

    • Apply ice wrapped in a towel or cloth or a cool wet cloth to the area to relieve pain and swelling.


  • the sting or bite is near or inside the mouth

  • your child has a known severe allergy to a stinging or biting insect

  • injectable epinephrine (EpiPen) was used

  • the site looks infected (has increasing redness, warmth, swelling, pain, or pus several hours or longer after the sting or bite)

Spider Bites

What to do if your child gets a spider bite:

  1. Wash the area carefully with soap and water. Do this two to three                                                    times a day until skin is healed.

  2. Apply cool compresses.

  3. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.

  4. To protect against infection, apply an antibiotic ointment and keep your child’s hands washed.

  5. Because most spider bites don’t go all the way through skin, they usually cause only mild reactions.

  6. If you have any reason to suspect a bite by a black widow spider or brown recluse spider, use soap and water to wash the bite site, apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in a washcloth, and take your child to the emergency room. Even if he or she doesn’t show any symptoms, get medical attention right away.

Black Widow Spider Bite Protocol

  • Characterized as having a shiny black body and an orange-red hourglass shape on its underbelly.

  • Found all over North America

  • The venom (a toxic substance) in a black widow bite can cause painful cramps that show up within a few hours of the bite.

    • The cramps can start in the muscles around the bite and then spread.

  • The bite may also lead to nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, headache, and muscle aches.

  • If your child has any of these symptoms — or you think he or she has been bitten — go to the emergency room right away.

Signs and Symptoms following a Black Widow Bite: (If you experience a Black Widow bite, or suspect one, go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY)

  • painful muscle cramps within 8 hours

  • no bite on the skin (or only a small bite)

  • belly pain and stiffness

  • nausea and vomiting

  • breathing trouble

Brown Recluse Spider Bite Protocol

  • Characterized as a tiny oval brown spider with a small shape like a violin on its back — is found mostly in midwestern and southern parts of the United States.

  • This spider likes to hide in dark, quiet places like in attics or garages, under porches, and in woodpiles.

  • The bites usually don’t hurt at first (a child might not even be aware of the bite), but in some cases they cause swelling, changes in skin color, and a blister, which can later scar.

  • Chills, fever, rash, pain, nausea, and rarely, more serious symptoms like seizures or coma can follow a bite.

Signs and Symptoms following a Brown Recluse Bite (If you experience a Brown Recluse bite, or suspect one, go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY​)

  • swelling or redness around the bite

  • pain around the bite within 2 to 8 hours

  • joint stiffness or pain

  • nausea, vomiting

  • body rash

  • fever, chills, and body aches

  • tiredness

Think Prevention!

  • Make sure garages, attics, and woodpiles are free of spider webs.

  • Make sure kids wear long sleeves and pants when playing around garages, attics, and woodpiles, etc.

  • Firewood should be kept outside the house to avoid bringing spiders inside.

Scorpion Safety

Although scorpions are not as common as spiders or bees, there are some native to Florida that you could accidentally come across. By being aware of this threat, it’s a smart way to keep your kids, and yourself, safe from a potential sting.

What to do for scorpion stings: 

  • Wash the area with soap and water, apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in a washcloth on the sting, and take your child to the emergency room immediately.

  • If a person gets stung by a scorpion, the area of the sting will hurt and may get swollen or red, depending on the type of scorpion.

  • More severe reactions from the venom involving other parts of the body also can happen.

  • Because it’s hard to tell a dangerous scorpion from one that is harmless, all scorpion stings must be treated by a health care provider.

  • Capture the scorpion for identification if it’s possible to do so safely, and bring it with you. Knowing the type of scorpion that caused the bite may make treatment easier.

Tick Bites

Tick Care: 

  • Check kids and pets for ticks carefully after they’ve been in or around a wooded area.

  • Ticks removed within 24 to 48 hours are less likely to transmit diseases like Lyme disease.

  • Common types of ticks include dog ticks and deer ticks (deer ticks may be carriers of Lyme disease).

If you find a tick on your child:

  • Call your health care provider, who may want you to save the tick in a sealed container or zip-locked bag for identification later.

  • Remove the tick immediately within 6-8 hours

  • Don’t use petroleum jelly or a lit match to kill and remove a tick. These methods don’t get the tick off the skin, and may cause the insect to burrow deeper and release more saliva (which increases the chances of disease transmission).

How Do I Remove a Tick?

It’s important to remove a tick as soon as possible. Follow these steps:

  1. Use tweezers to grasp the tick firmly at its head or mouth, next to the skin.

  2. Pull firmly and steadily until the tick lets go of the skin. Do not twist the tick or rock it from side to side. Parts of the tick might stay in the skin, but eventually will come out on their own.

  3. Wash your hands and the site of the bite with soap and water.

  4. Swab the bite site with alcohol.

What Are the Signs of Tick-Related Diseases?

  • a red bump ringed by an expanding red rash, which looks like a bull’s-eye (Lyme disease)

  • red dots on the ankles and wrists (Rocky Mountain spotted fever)

  • flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, tiredness, vomiting, and muscle and joint aches

When Should I Call the Doctor? Call your doctor if…

  • The tick might have been on the skin for more than 24 hours.

  • Part of the tick remains in the skin.

  • A rash of any kind develops (especially a red-ringed bull’s-eye rash or red dots on wrists and ankles).

  • The bite area looks infected (increasing warmth, swelling, pain, or oozing pus).

  • Symptoms like fever, headache, tiredness, stiff neck or back, or muscle or joint aches develop.

How Can I Protect My Kids From Ticks?

  • After kids play outside, check their skin and hair — especially the scalp, behind the ears, around the neck, in the eyebrows and eyelashes, and under the arms.

  • When playing in wooded areas, kids should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and tuck pant legs into their socks.

  • Use an insect repellent with at least 10% to 30% DEET for protection against bites and stings in kids older than 2 years. Always carefully follow the label directions for applying.

  • Avoid tick-infested areas.

Preventing Bites And Stings

Here are some ways to protect your family from bites and stings:

  • Prevent flea infestations by treating your house (including all carpets, furniture, and pets) regularly during the warmer months. Frequent vacuuming also can help.

  • Avoid mosquitoes by staying away from areas where mosquitoes breed, such as still pools or ponds, during hot weather. Remove standing water from birdbaths, buckets, etc.; try to stay inside when mosquitoes are most active (dawn and dusk); and apply insect repellent when kids go outside.

  • Use insect repellent when spending time outdoors camping, hiking, etc. Repellents that contain 10% to 30% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) are approved for mosquitoes, ticks, and some other bugs.

    • Repellents that contain picaridin (KBR 3023) or oil of lemon eucalyptus (p-menthane 3,8-diol or PMD) are effective against mosquitoes.

    • Follow the instructions carefully.

    • Check what ages the product is appropriate for, and don’t overuse it — using more than is needed won’t provide any extra protection.

    • Reapply insect repellent according to the directions after swimming.

  • When you or your kids are in wooded areas, tuck clothes in and keep as covered up as possible. Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants. Wear shoes and socks when walking on grass, even it’s just for a minute. Bees and wasps can sting unprotected

  • Don’t swat at buzzing insects — they will sting if they feel threatened.

  • Be aware that spiders might be hiding in undisturbed piles of wood, seldom-opened boxes, or corners behind furniture, and proceed with caution.