Bug Bites, Tick Bites, and Bee Stings: What Every Parent Should Know

Bug Bites, Tick Bites, and Bee Stings:  What Every Parent Should Know

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It’s that time of year again when the days are longer, weather is warmer, and the kids go outside to play. It’s also the same time of year that bugs, ticks and bees like to share the same outdoor space. Bites and stings can be an unfriendly experience but should not deter you from allowing your children to play outside. It is possible to allow children to play outside without fearing that they will get bit or stung. Being educated on bite and sting prevention, what to look out for, and how to treat it may help put your mind at ease.

Mosquito Bites


  1. Clothing Barrier: Keep skin covered with long sleeves, pants, and socks when outdoors during peak mosquito activity
  2. Avoid Peak Mosquito Activity: Dusk to dawn, cooler times of the day and shaded areas
  3. Insect Repellent for outdoor use
    1. CDC recommends repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products.
    2. Research studies have shown that oil extracts of citronella, eucalyptus, lemongrass, cinnamon, rosemary, wintergreen, lavender, thyme, peppermint, and geranium are as effective as commercially available insect repellents. There are many all-natural commercially available products with these oils in them on the market now.

Health Concerns:

  1. Secondary Bacterial infection (from scratching): Local tenderness/pain, redness extending around bite, small bumps around bite, weeping around the bite area, honey colored crusting
  2. West Nile Virus (Flu-like symptoms in the middle of summer): Fever/Chills, fatigue/weakness, muscle aches and pains

Bite Treatment:

  1. Keep fingernails clipped short to reduce risk of scratching and bacterial infection
  2. Ice pack to bite
  3. Calamine lotion
  4. Over the counter oral antihistamines
  5. Topical antihistamine
  6. Baking soda paste to bite area
  7. Homeopathic Urtica and/or Ledum
  8. Calendula and Comfrey salve to bite area
  9. Tea tree oil topically
  10. Apple cider vinegar applied with cotton swab
  11. Black tea bags applied to bite
  12. Peppermint leave crushed and applied to bite
  13. Aloe applied to bite
  14. Potato Poultice: Grated potato placed in gauze and applied to bite

Tick Bites

  1. Avoid Contact
    1. Wear long sleeved shirts, pants tucked into socks, rain boots
    2. Keep grass and shrubs trimmed continuously throughout spring, summer and fall
    3. Avoid wooded and bushy areas
    4. Walk in center of trails
  2. Perform daily tick checks after outdoor activity (especially the head)
    1. Bathe or shower after outdoor exposure to wash off and easily find ticks
  3. Treat family pets routinely with flea and tick medicine and perform routine tick checks on them after outdoor exposure
  4. Tumble dry exposed clothing in dryer 1 hr to kill any remaining ticks after outdoor activity
  5. Insect Repellent for Outdoor Use
    1. CDC recommends insect repellents containing 20-30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. They also recommend 0.5% Permethrin on clothing, boots, and tents.
    2. Studies have also shown efficacy in oil extracts of clove, citronella, lily of the valley, geranium, cedarwood, neem, eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender in tick prevention. There are many all-natural commercially available products with these oils in them on the market now.

Health Concerns:

  1. Lyme Disease
    1. Early Symptoms: Target or Bull’s Eye rash, Flat or Raised red bite, flu-like symptoms (Fever, fatigue, joint/muscle pain, headache, stiff neck)
    2. Delayed Symptoms: Painful swollen joints, heart problems, neurologic problems, eye problems, severe fatigue
    3. Treatment
      1. Prophylaxis (Given within 72 hours of tick removal)
        1. Antibiotic: Usually single dose
        2. Remember to take your probiotics when taking any antibiotic!
      2. Treatment (Duration and choice of Antibiotic therapy depends on stage of Lyme Disease)
        1. Antibiotics
        2. Don’t forget your probiotic!
  2. Babesiosis
    1. Symptoms: Flu-like Symptoms (Fever, fatigue/weakness, joint/muscle pain); gastrointestinal, respiratory, urinary symptoms, or neurological symptoms
    2. Treatment
      1. Combination Antibiotics x 10 days
  3. Ehrlichiosis
    1. Symptoms: Flu-like Symptoms (Fever/chills, muscle pain, headache); rash on torso; gastrointestinal or respiratory symptoms.
    2. Treatment
      1. Antibiotic x 14 days

Bee Stings (Bees, Wasps, Hornets, Yellow Jackets)

  1. When drinking sweetened beverages outdoors, wide open cups allow you to see if a bee is in it
  2. Tightly cover food containers and trash cans
  3. Clear away garbage, fallen fruit, and dog or other animal feces
  4. Wear close-toed shoes when walking outside
  5. Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing which can attract bees
  6. Keep windows up while driving
  7. If bees are flying around you, stay calm and walk slowly away from the area. Do not swat at the insect. Ask child to, “be still like a statue and the bee won’t know you’re there”.
  8. Avoid fragrances (hair sprays, soaps, lotions, and oils)

Health Concerns:

  1. Local Reaction: Redness, swelling, warmth, tenderness/pain, and/or drainage at bee sting site. May develop hives without systemic reaction.
  2. Systemic Reaction: Difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue/mouth. May develop hives.


  1. Local Reaction
    1. Remove the stinger (Honeybee) as quickly as possible. Be careful not to squeeze the sac when removing stinger.
    2. Elevate extremity to reduce swelling
    3. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
    4. Ice packs
    5. Analgesics (Tylenol, Ibuprofen)
    6. Homeopathic Apis, Ledum, and/or Arnica
    7. Rescue Remedy
    8. Apple cider vinegar cotton swab to bite
    9. Calendula and Comfrey salve
    10. Crushed Marigold (Calendula) flower applied to bee sting
    11. Potato Poultice: Grated potato placed in gauze and applied to bee sting 10 min (will draw out the poison and relieve the sting)
  2. Systemic Reaction
    1. Epi-Pen injected into lateral thigh (if you have on hand) AND Call 911

Create a “Summer-time” basket with the medications, homeopathics, and botanicals listed to have on hand during the summer months. Bites and stings are usually situations where it calls for immediate attention. Having treatments on hand, utilizing prevention tips, and knowing what to look for can help ease your concerns of allowing your children to play outdoors. It’s important to encourage outdoor activity not only for the myriad of health benefits but also for your child’s connection to nature.

Dr. Robin Russell is a Naturopathic Doctor specializing in Pediatrics and Women’s Health. She is Owner and a Physician at Natural Pediatric Medicine, LLC in Canaan, CT. Dr. Russell is also an Adjunct Faculty at the University of Bridgeport in their Masters of Nutrition program. She is a Board Member of the Connecticut Naturopathic Physicians Association as well as a Member of the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Dr. Russell graduated from Bastyr University in 2005 and opened her practice in the Seattle area later that same year. After practicing Primary Care in WA for almost 8 years, Dr. Russell and her husband decided to return to CT to raise their children near family.