Insect Bites and Stings and Treating a Child in Your Care

Australia is blessed with a wonderfully diverse climate and eco-system, so it’s no wonder a plethora of insects enjoy residing here just as much as people do!

Much of the time we have plenty of practices in place to deter these pesky little beasts from invading our homes, but insect bites and stings are relatively commonplace while enjoying family time outdoors. We should never discourage our little explorers from playing outside, but it’s essential that parents and caregivers know what to do if a sting or bite causes a nasty reaction.

Health Direct Australia warns that some children, and adults, can experience very severe reactions to particular bites or stings. This is called anaphylaxis, and if any of the associated symptoms occur, immediate medical attention must be sought. In most cases, however, we can treat an insect bite or sting ourselves, in order to alleviate mild pain, swelling, itching or discomfort.

Insect bites will usually leave a small puncture wound in the skin causing swelling, itching, bumps or blisters. Stings will also puncture the skin, but can sometimes leave the stinger behind. Stings are usually associated with a more intense burning sensation and swelling/redness around the sting site, but the reaction to a bite or a sting will largely depend on which critter happens to be the culprit.

If a child is NOT having a severe reaction and anaphylaxis has been ruled out, then there are plenty of remedies we can administer to ease what can be a frightening experience for a little one…well, anyone actually!


Bees have barbed stings, which may remain in the sting site. This kills the bee, and sometimes the rest of the insect will detach, but the stinger should only be removed by scraping it away. Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and ask your pharmacist to advise on the most suitable painkillers and/or antihistamines.


Ants can inject their venom several times in close proximity and cause pain and swelling at the sting site(s). Your pharmacist can recommend age-appropriate painkillers and/or antihistamines.


The bite is inflicted by the front fangs and can be painful. Painkillers from your pharmacist may help.


In Australia, spider bites can be a cause for concern. Funnel-web and red-back spiders are very dangerous and if you expect a bite could be from one of these you must seek medical attention immediately. It would be advisable to do this regardless, especially if there is any persistent pain or swelling.


Ah yes, our favourite little stripy nightmares! Wasps do not die from stinging you and can sting numerous times in a single attack. Although very painful, they are less prone to cause serious reactions and their stings are not barbed. Remove any remnants of the wasp, if it was squashed, and use topical remedies, antihistamines or painkillers under the recommendation of your chemist. A wasp sting in the mouth or throat is far more serious…never leave fizzy drinks uncovered.


Most active at night these little blighters will try to catch us anywhere. Insect repellents, nets, screen doors and appropriate clothing are great deterrents. Calamine lotion, ice, and trying not to scratch will ease the symptoms.

With all of these bites and stings, please remember to seek medical attention if you suspect a more serious reaction in any situation, and remember to inform your childcare centre if your child has a known allergy – insect or otherwise.

And we certainly won’t let the critters stop us enjoying our time outdoors!