During the summer months, your family’s chances of encountering bees and wasps increase. Before heading outdoors, it’s a good idea to know how to reduce your child’s risk of getting stung and what to do in the event that a sting occurs.

“There are some things parents can do to minimize your kid’s risk,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw of Eugene Pediatric Associates. “If you know there are nests around your home, get a professional to remove those nests. Watch for playing outside during the peak hours of the sun because that’s when a lot of those insects are the most busy.”

Tips to avoid a sting

Be aware that bugs tend to easily see bright and dark colors, so dressing children in light colored clothing and avoiding floral patterns may make them less attractive to biting insects.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some additional tips to avoid insect stings:

  • Always wear shoes.
  • If a stinging insect is near, teach your kids not to swat at it—that action can trigger an attack.
  • Avoid having food or sweetened beverages near where kids are playing outside.

What do in case of a sting

If your child does get stung, Dr. Bradshaw says don’t panic; most kids are not allergic. If the stinger is still visible, scrape over it with your fingernail or a piece of gauze to dislodge it.

The American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend using tweezers to remove a stinger, because squeezing it can cause more venom to release into your child’s skin.

Wash the sting with soap and water, then apply a cool compress or ice pack to the sting. Immediate use of an antihistamine will also help.

“Give them an antihistamine like Benadryl as soon as you know they’ve been stung because it will help with the swelling,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

When to seek help

Keep an eye on your child in case any symptoms other than redness and swelling appear at the sting site. Dr. Bradshaw says it’s time to call 911 if a child starts to wheeze or to complain that their throat is itchy or if their throat is closing, or if they start to act faint or show any other serious signs.

If you know your child is allergic to bee or wasp stings, be sure to have an EpiPen or other medication at the ready. Dr. Bradshaw says to use it as soon as your child gets stung—do not wait for symptoms of anaphylaxsis to appear. It’s also a good idea for a child who is allergic to insects to wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet.