Because bee stings are always unexpected, they can be incredibly painful and scary to children. Fortunately, there are many things we can do as parents to help them avoid being stung while playing outside. Putting them in light-colored clothes and closed-toe shoes, avoiding floral/sweet-scented lotions and hair products, and being careful with outdoor food are a few simple steps we can take to avoid attracting pesky stinging insects. But if your child is stung, the wound is very easy to care for using supplies and medications that you probably already have in your home.
Avoid Playing Near Bushes
Thick foliage around the home is a great place for bees to build their hives. In order to avoid a surprise bee sting, make sure to regularly trim bushes, trees, and other shrubbery to make it easy to remove any hives that appear throughout the year. Keep in mind that trimming hedges is likely to agitate any bees that are already present! To prevent kids from being stung, always discourage them from playing in or around bushes. In addition to hidden bee hives, wasps, snakes, and other dangerous pests may also lurk in thick foliage.
Be Careful With Food and Open Containers
Bees are attracted to residue from sugary foods and drinks. Soda cans (either full or empty) and sweet treats will lure bees to your picnic very quickly. Always keep food covered when eating in outdoor areas, and make sure to clean up right away. Keep outdoor trash in a covered trash can and rinse it out regularly. Rinsing soda cans and bottles before placing them in the recycle bin will help discourage bees from hanging around your home.
If you notice a few bees buzzing around your food, take extra care to cover your child’s drink when they are not using it. Bees can easily crawl inside and sting when your child takes a sip. Summer is the time for ice cream and ice pops, so make sure to keep an eye on the kids when they are enjoying these sweet treats outdoors!
Avoid Fragrances and Bright Colors
Bees love sweet-smelling fragrances and bright colors. Bees prefer colorful things to more neutral-colored ones, so white, beige, and khaki are great color choices for outside play. Any kind of sweet-smelling personal care product can have an attractive scent to bees; hair spray, soap, lotion, perfume, and shampoo and conditioner are all popular culprits. They especially love floral scents and can be drawn to them across long distances.
Bees are drawn to anything that looks like a flower, so it’s a good idea to avoid wearing floral patterns. Because bees see in the ultraviolet range, they love neon colors. If your clothes would glow under a blacklight, they would also be very interesting to bees.
Wear Shoes and Long Pants
Although it’s tempting for children to run around barefoot during the summer, it is much safer for them to wear closed-toe shoes to avoid stepping on bees. Bees can often be found on the ground because they are drawn to flowering ground cover. This makes it easy to accidentally step on one, which will frighten it into stinging. If you know you’re going to be in an area that will likely have bees (such as a field), it’s a smart idea to dress your child in long pants and a hat. A hat will protect your child from stings, which can be particularly painful on the scalp.
Treating a Bee Sting
If your child is stung by a bee, don’t panic! Most people have a common localized reaction to a bee sting, which includes redness, swelling, and pain around the site of the sting. The pain will usually dissipate within a few hours. About 3% of people have an allergic reaction to bee stings, so if your child begins to experience hives, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, trouble breathing, or diarrhea, get to an emergency room right away.
The first step to healing a bee sting is to determine if the stinger is still in the skin. If you see a small black dot on the wound, remove it immediately with tweezers or by swiping the area with a hard, flat object (like a credit card or blunt utensil). Thoroughly clean the area and apply hydrocortisone cream to reduce swelling and pain/itching. A topical pain relief spray may also be used to alleviate the discomfort. Medications such as Benadryl and ibuprofen will relieve much of the pain, swelling, and irritation associated with the sting.
Some natural remedies for bee stings include ice packs, a paste made from baking soda and water, or a drop of lavender essential oil applied to the sting. You could also try applying a clove of crushed garlic, crushed basil leaves, or even a smear of honey.
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- Bee Sting Basics
- Avoiding Bee Stings
- Bug/Insect Safety
- Bee and Wasp Safety Awareness and Tips
- Creating a Wild Backyard: Bees
- Coping With Bee Stings (PDF)
- About Bee Stings
- Help! A Bee Stung Me!
- Secure Outdoor Storage Options
- Bee and Wasp Stings
- First Aid for Bee and Insect Stings