Children and Bee Stings

Insect Bites in Daycare

Children's insect bites are a common occurrence in daycare settings, and next to food allergies, the most common trigger of allergic reactions in children is insect venom, and bee stings in particular. While most daycares are well aware of and have had some experience with children's food allergies (such as allergic reactions to peanuts, eggs, milk, and tree nuts), and while many daycares provide annual training for staff on how to recognize and treat the symptoms of allergic reactions to foods, the same cannot be said about other types of allergies.

While bee, wasp, and ant stings are painful for any child, for kids who are allergic they can be fatal. Although kids often outgrow insect sting allergies over time if the correct allergy shots are administered (known as venom immunotherapy), the most dangerous allergic reactions are likely to occur in daycare-aged children.

The Buzz on Bee Stings in Children

Insect bites and stings are common occurrences during the late summer and early fall, when insect populations are at their peak. Although most stings don't pose a threat for the vast majority of children, about 1% of children experience life-threatening allergic reactions to insect and bee stings, which can range from mild allergic reactions to anaphylactic shock and collapse (unconsciousness). Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can occur within 20 minutes after exposure to a trigger and that can be fatal in just 10 minutes if left untreated.

Symptoms of Bee Stings in Children

Non-allergic children's symptoms of a bee or wasp sting occur at the site of the sting and include:

•- Pain

•- Swelling

•- Redness

•- Burning or itchiness

More severe symptoms of bee sting allergies and anaphylactic shock in children include:

•- Rapid swelling around the eyes, lips, and tongue

•- Reddish rash or hives

•- Throat constriction

•- Breathing Difficulty

•- Wheezing, hoarseness, difficulty talking

•- Itchiness

•- Stomach cramping

•- Severe numbness

•- Dizziness

•- Loss of consciousness

Expert Advice: Treating and Preventing Bee Stings in Daycare

Physicians offer the following expert advice on how to treat and prevent bee stings and insect stings in children:

•- If stung by a bee, carefully and gently remove the stinger as soon as possible using the side of a credit card or your fingers, taking care not to pinch or squeeze the stinger (which causes more toxin to be released into the skin)

•- Only honey bees leave a stinger behind (as opposed to stings by wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, and other flying insects)

•- Wash the affected area with soap and water

•- To reduce swelling, apply cold compresses or ice

•- To relieve itchiness, pain, and swelling, apply calamine lotion or administer over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl

•- For minor pain relief, use ibuprofen or acetaminophen, or administer a bee-sting swab (bought from a pharmacy) to dull the pain

•- For stings inside the nose, mouth, or throat, transport children to the emergency room since swelling in these areas can cause shortness of breath even in non-allergic victims

•- Educate daycare staff to recognize and treat both regular and allergic symptoms of insect stings

•- Provide annual training for staff on basic first aid treatment, how to treat bee stings, insect bites, and allergic reactions, and how to administer the EpiPen adrenaline auto-injector in cases of anaphylaxis

•- Children with known histories of allergic reactions should carry an emergency adrenalin/epinephrine kit at all times. If a child's allergy kit is not with them, do not wait for symptoms to occur! Report to an emergency room or call 911 immediately

Through increased awareness and education, your daycare will continue to provide a safe learning and play environment - even when the bees sting!