Bites, stings and itches

Bites, stings and itches

Dog and cat bites

Ninety percent of dog or cat bites are done by family pets. Two of every three bites occur to children younger than age 15. Teach your child how to be responsible around your family pet. This includes never teasing it, never bothering it while eating or sleeping and never letting a stranger come pet it.

Also, teach your child what to do if they see an unfamiliar dog or cat:

  • Don't run to it or call it over.
  • Don't try to pet it.
  • Don't stare at it.
  • Walk away calmly to the house or get an adult.

Make sure your pet has its current set of shots each year. Always supervise a small child around your pet, even if the child is yours.

What to do if your child gets bitten

If your child is bitten by a dog or cat:

  • Wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • Check to see if the animal has up-to-date rabies shots.
  • Check to see if your child is up-to-date on their tetanus shots.
  • Report an animal bite to the police or sheriff department in the city or county in which the bite happened.
  • An animal must be watched closely for at least two weeks after a bite. If the animal that bit your child cannot be found, they may need shots to prevent rabies. Your police department can help you call the proper authorities.
  • Call your health care provider if the bite is on your child's face, causes disfigurement or if the area won't stop bleeding. Bites on the feet, hands, wrists and face are at high risk for infection.

Snake bites

Minnesota is home to two kinds of poisonous (venomous) snakes. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the massasauga and timber rattlesnake are found only in southeastern Minnesota. Both types of snake are protected by law. Their bites rarely cause death.

What to do if your child gets bitten

If your child is bitten by a snake, the American Red Cross advises you do the following.

  • Wash the bite area well.
  • Keep the bite area below your child's heart, if possible.
  • Call 911.
  • Do not:
    • apply ice
    • cut the area
    • use a tourniquet

Insect bites and stings

If your child is stung by a bee, wasp or hornet, do not squeeze your child's skin to remove the stinger. Scrape away the stinger with your fingernail, credit card or tweezers.

How to treat an insect bite or sting (including a spider bite):

  • Put ice on the bite or sting site.
  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Use an anti-itch medicine for comfort.
  • Cover the bite or sting site with a bandage.

Call your health care provider if your child seems to be having a reaction.

If you use an insect repellent that contains DEET, choose a DEET concentration up to 30 percent for children who are 2 months old or older.

Bee sting emergency

If your child is stung and has swelling at the sting site or gets hives, give your child oral Benadryl® (if you have it) and then call your health care provider right away. Your child may be having an allergic reaction. If your child has trouble breathing, call 911.

Tick bites

When your family spends time in wooded areas, you may find an uninvited guest on your child's body - a tick. There are many different kinds of ticks in Minnesota. Only one, the deer tick, can cause Lyme disease.

How to prevent tick bites

  • Dress your child in a long-sleeved shirt and long pants if playing, hiking or camping in a wooded area. If possible, dress your child in light-colored clothing to help make the ticks stand out. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots.
  • Check your child carefully (head to toe) for ticks if they have been outside.
  • Use insect repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin.

How to remove a tick

If you find a tick in your child's skin, follow these steps:

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick toward its head. Do not try to pull the tick out by its body.
  • Grasp the tick firmly and keep the tweezers as close to your child's body as possible. Pull the tick out slowly. Try not to squeeze it.
  • Put an antiseptic ointment or rubbing alcohol on your child's skin.

Do not use matches, kerosene, nail polish, petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline®) or any other product to get the tick out of your child's skin.

Related resources

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022