Insect Bites and Stings Prevention, Children Ages Birth to 19 Years

In New York State (NYS), on average, there are almost 2,550 hospital visits because of hornet, wasp, and bee stings among children ages 19 and under. In NYS, there are, on average, almost 11,300 hospital visits annually because of non-venomous insect bites among children ages 19 years and under.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing insect bites and stings.

What are the most common bites and stings?

The most common types of stinging insects are hornets, wasps, and bees. These kinds of insects usually attack when they feel like they are in danger and need to protect their territory or nest. When these insects sting, they can inject venom into the skin. Other common types of non-venomous insects found in the United States are mosquitoes, lice, bedbugs, ticks, fleas, gnats and chiggers.

How serious are bites and stings?

Although most insect stings are not serious and are only painful for a short time, they can cause a life-threatening, allergic reaction in some children. Life-threatening reactions to insect stings occur in less than one percent of children in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

What can I do to prevent my child from being bitten or stung?

  • Remain calm and quiet and slowly move away from stinging insects. Buzzing insects will sting if they feel threatened so do not swat at them.
  • Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing when outdoors. A stinging insect may confuse this clothing for a flower.
  • Do not use scented soaps, perfumes, or hair sprays on your child. These can attract insects.
  • Be careful when cooking, eating or drinking sweet beverages such as soda or juice outdoors. Keep food and drinks covered until consuming them.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes outdoors to avoid stepping barefoot on a stinging insect.
  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes that can trap insects between the material and the skin.
  • Read the instructions before applying insect repellent. Some repellents should only be applied to clothing, not skin.
  • Become familiar with symptoms resulting from an insect sting that would require a visit to the emergency room.
  • During hot weather, stay away from areas where mosquitoes breed, such as still pools or ponds. Remove standing water from birdbaths and buckets.
  • Try to stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active (dawn and dusk).

What should I do if I see insects nearby?

Avoid the "territory" around the stinging insect's nest. These insects are most likely to sting if their homes are disturbed, so it is important to leave their nests alone.

Where can I find more information about preventing insect bites and stings?