By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

An allergic reaction is the greatest risk that can occur with an insect sting. The second and more common risk is an infection at the sting site. Here are some sensible tips to avoid being stung:

• Stay away from stinging insects such as wasps and bees and avoid their hives and nests. The hive views this as a threat and will attack.

• If the hive needs to be sprayed with insecticide, wait until dark when the insects are less active and keep children away from the area.

• Be cautious when choosing the clothing you or your children wear outdoors. Insects are attracted to brightly colored clothing and can easily get caught in loose fabrics.

• Avoid wearing perfumes and cologne outdoors in the summer.

• Cover food and drinks when they are not in use.

• If you or your children are stung, use the edge of a credit card or similar tool to scrape the stringer off. Take care not to squeeze the venom sac. A pair of tweezers may also be used to remove the stinger.

• Apply a cold pack of ice wrapped in a towel or a cold, wet washcloth to the area for a few minutes.

• If your child's doctor approves, administer an oral over-the-counter antihistamine for pain or itching. Be sure to follow dosage instructions for your child's age and weight.If your child is known to be allergic to insect stings, do the following:

• Have you child wear a medical alert ID bracelet.

• Keep an emergency kit available, especially during the seasons when insects are most active.

• Have a supply of preloaded epinephrine auto-injectors available and know how to use them. This medication is light sensitive. Do not use it if it is brown or discolored.

• Seek medical attention as soon as possible after the epinephrine is administered.And last of all, if your child is stung anywhere in or on the mouth seek immediate medical attention. Stings that occur on the mucous membrane of the mouth can quickly swell and cause airways to be blocked.
Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children's special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB. This column is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.

The Your Health column is written by health and medical experts at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The column focuses on topical health issues that we believe are of interest to your readers. It is e-mailed every Tuesday. If you have any questions about the column, or would like to suggest topics, please contact John Koloen, media relations specialist, at (409) 772-8790 or email jskoloen@utmb.edu.