How to Safely Avoid Summer Bug Bites

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Meagan Van Assche, NP, a pediatric nurse practitioner with Children’s Pediatricians & Associates Foggy Bottom/Capitol Hill, shares recommendations for how you and your child can prevent getting bit by mosquitos and other itchy bugs this season.

Mosquitos love Washington, DC, as much as tourists do. According to a nationally based pest control company, the District is now the third worst city in the country for mosquitos.  The warm temperatures and recent storms make our region mosquito heaven; so, it is important to know how to safely protect your children from these and other biting insects. 

Here are a few ways to minimize the risk of becoming bug bait:  

  • Avoid outdoor activities during dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active
  • Avoid playing in or around standing puddles of water or flowerbeds 
  • Wear thin, long sleeved shirts and long pants to minimize skin exposure

What about bug spray?

Yes, bug spray is okay to use.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide). Pregnant women and children older than 2 months old should use sprays with the lowest available concentration of DEET, but no more than 30 percent. If you plan to be outside for only a few hours, a lower concentration of DEET is recommended. If you plan on being outside for a full day, higher concentrations are recommended, but no more than 30 percent. Once inside for the day, wash bug spray off of your child’s skin. Newborns and infants younger than 2 months old should be dressed in long clothing and covered with lightweight blankets or mosquito netting.  Always use insect repellent as directed. 

Picaridin 20 percent is an alternative ingredient to DEET to look for in insect repellants. These repellents work, but they do not last as long. Do not use products with oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under 3 years old. Other products like electronic devices, wristbands, garlic, or vitamin B1 have not been found to work to ward off insects. So you can feed your kids garlic bread until the cows come home, but it won’t keep them from getting covered in mosquito bites! 

Application tips 

Insect repellent should only be applied to exposed skin, and children should never apply it on their own. When applying insect repellent to your child’s face, spray it into your hands, and then rub it onto your child’s face. Make sure to avoid his/her mouth and eyes. Never use repellents on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin. 

Do not use combination bug spray/sunscreen products because DEET may make the sun protection factor (SPF) less effective. Also, sunscreen needs to be reapplied often, and so reapplying product with DEET may overexpose kids. Be sure to apply sunscreen to the skin first and then insect repellent so that it is most effective. 

No matter which type you use, always store insect repellents in a locked cabinet where children cannot get their hands on them. Be sure to use bug sprays in open areas only, and never apply them near the food you plan to eat.  Once you are back inside, wash your child’s skin and clothing well with soap and water. 

If you think that your child is having a reaction to an insect repellent, immediately: 

  • Stop using the product 
  • Wash your child’s skin with soap and water 
  • Call POISON HELP at 1-800-222-1222, your child’s medical provider, or if he/she is experiencing difficulty breathing, call 911

Topics: Parenting


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