Warmer weather means families are spending more time outdoors. Fresh air and sunshine are good for energetic kids to let off steam. However, there may be danger lurking in the great outdoors in the form of biting insects. So we looked into what is the best protection from bug bites.
How Serious Is It?
While buzzing and biting mosquitos may seem merely annoying, they can be a hazard to you, your child, or a senior’s health. Mosquitos can transmit the Zika virus, as well as West Nile and the more rare, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and Chikungunya.
Another bug to take precautions against are ticks. A tick bite can result in a case of Lyme Disease. According to the CDC, in the United States, Lyme disease is the most common disease caused by a bite from an insect. Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, headache, and a skin rash. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics.
Viral diseases caused by mosquito bites like Zika and West Nile do not cause symptoms in most people. However, severe cases of West Nile can result in encephalitis and meningitis and even death. Zika in a pregnant woman can result in birth defects.
Preventing Bug Bites
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises parents to take these precautions to help prevent bug bites:
- Stay away from areas where stagnant water has accumulated.
- Avoid the use of scented bathing and hygiene products.
- Dress in clothing that is light in color and covers the arms and legs.
- Children should wear hats.
- Cover strollers with mosquito netting.
- Apply insect repellent.
Insect Repellent Safety
- The AAP and CDC advise parents to apply an insect repellant anytime children are outside.
- 10% to 30% DEET can be used for children older than two months. The higher concentrations provide more extended periods of protection.
- Picaridin is another insect repellant recommended by the AAP and CDC.
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a natural alternative that the CDC reports, “provided protection time similar to low concentration DEET products in two recent studies.” It should not be used on children younger than three years old.
- When applying insect repellants, avoid the eyes and mouth. Do not apply to cuts or irritated skin.
- Children’s hands should be washed after application of insect repellants.
If Your Child Gets Bitten
“Call your provider for hives and swelling over the body or if the bite looks infected — redness is spreading, warm, with pus, or tender,” advises Maryanne Tranter, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and founder of The Healthy Child Concierge. “Children need immediate emergency attention for breathing problems after a bite (including wheezing, coughing) and troubles with the throat (tightness, cannot swallow, drooling, speech problems).”
If you find a tick on your child, Tranter provides these instructions for safe removal:
- Use tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. If you don’t have tweezers, use a tissue or cloth to protect your fingers while removing.
- Firmly pull the tick straight up.
- Do not jerk, twist, squeeze, or crush the tick (it may contain infection).
- Clean with soap and water.
- If mouthparts remain on the skin, do not worry, they will leave on their own.
- Watch for a red bullseye rash to appear for up to 30 days if the tick was attached for more than 2-3 days.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a search tool to help parents choose the right insect repellant. Find the Repellent that is Right for You.
Best Protection from Bug Bites — Sources
Healthy Children (AAP) – Summer Safety Tips: Staying Safe Outdoors
CDC – Diseases Spread by Ticks
CDC – CDC Adopts New Repellent Guidance for Upcoming Mosquito Season
Post-Management Science – Is DEET a dangerous neurotoxicant?
The Healthy Child Concierge