Treating Bites and Stings in Children
Injuries from bites and stings range from trivial to fatal, depending upon the source of the bite and the child’s response to it. For example, a bee sting is usually a minor, albeit painful, event.
However, if the child is hypersensitive to bee venom, such a sting can result in a fatal anaphylactic response (see section on hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis). An animal or human bite not only can cause tissue damage, but it may also lead to a serious infection.
Some bites, such as those of a tick or certain mosquitos, may be trivial themselves but can lead to serious illnesses such as Lyme disease, malaria or encephalitis if the insect is a vector (carrier) of the causative organism.
First Aid Steps for Animal Bites
- If the wound is bleeding heavily, apply pressure with a clean bandage and get help at a hospital emergency room.
- Deep punctures or large wounds should be cleaned and then brought to the attention of your child’s physician as soon as possible. The doctor will decide whether to stitch the wound and whether to prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.
- If the child was bitten by a wild animal or a stray, cleanse the wound and consult your physician as soon as possible. If the animal can be safely captured, do so and call your local health department about testing for possible rabies.
- For smaller bites, gently clean the wound and surrounding area with soap and warm water, and rinse for at least two minutes. If the skin has been punctured or broken, apply an antiseptic solution such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol and apply antibiotic cream.
- Watch for signs of infection around the wound, including redness, swelling and tenderness, or the formation of pus. Be on the lookout for flulike symptoms–such as chills, fever or sweating–or swollen glands, indicating a possible systemic infection or illness from the bite.
First Aid Steps for Human Bites
Human bites that have broken the skin are likely to cause infection if they are not treated because the human mouth is home to many types of microorganisms that can infect the wound. Clean the wound as described above, and consult your child’s physician as soon as possible. Your child will probably need to be given antibiotics to ward off infection.
Tips and Tricks
- Vicious dogs should be kept restrained at all times. If a dog that has been known to bite without provocation is allowed to run free, notify your town’s animal warden.
- Teach your child not to approach an unknown animal, especially in the wild. Raccoons and other wild animals carry rabies.
- Even a family pet may react violently if mistreated. Teach your child the proper way of handling an animal at an early age.
- Warn children against disturbing an animal while it is eating or sleeping, or touching an animal that is unaware of the child’s presence. It is a good idea to speak to the animal when approaching so that it does not become startled by the child’s presence.
- Teach children to keep their faces from getting close to an animal.