By: Lainie Harris, Penfield Children’s Center
While the summer months can be filled with hours of sunshine and endless play, they are also filled with insects. These pests pose more of a threat than you may think, and while we often dismiss mosquito bites and other such bumps, there is a plethora of potential issues that may arise from a bug bite.
Potential Problems for Bug Bites
- Can become itchy and swollen
- If scratched roughly, the skin may become infected
- Mosquitos carry disease
- Extreme allergic reactions can occur, requiring medication
The first step to take when protecting your child from bug bites is prevention. But just how much protection – AKA bug repellent – is safe for your child?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (along with the CDC and the EPA) says that it is safe to use bug spray on children older than two months of age. Even with the green light from the AAP, it is still very important to use caution when using them on children.
Precautions to Take
- Read labels carefully, paying attention to directions and warnings
- Spray onto your hands and rub onto your child’s face, rather than spraying directly onto your child’s face
- Avoid the eyes and mouth
- Avoid any broken or irritated skin
- Use DEET products sparingly (no more than once a day)
Avoid repellent/sunscreen combination lotions, as sunscreen needs to be reapplied much more often than insect repellent, and you may overexpose your child to insect repellent.
Remember to wash the repellent off when your child is done being outdoors.
Mosquitos, gnats, and ticks are not only bothersome, but their bites can also have extreme health consequences, including the Zika virus and the West Nile virus along with Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever.
Alternatives to Insect Repellent
If insect repellent is a scary thought, parents.com recommends insect netting for your child’s stroller or car seat. Another alternative option are plant oils such as citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, and cedar wood, which will need more frequent reapplication than chemical bug spray.
More natural ways to avoid insect bites include dressing children in loose-fitting clothing, preferably with long sleeves. Socks and shoes offer much more protection than sandals. Avoid scented lotion that may attract bugs.
Insect repellent wristbands may be worn on your child’s wrists and ankles if the bug spray is irritating to their skin. They can be affective for up to 100 hours, and can be the perfect solution for a squirmy child.
For newborns, the CDC recommends avoiding chemical products altogether and relying on physical barriers such as mosquito netting and clothing that leaves little skin exposed.
Reminder: insects are the worst early in the morning and at dusk, so try to stay indoors during these times!
While the prospects of insect bites becoming itchy or painful are scary, it is important to continue spending time outside with your child, but to remember to take the necessary precautions.
Most repellents do not protect against stinging bugs like wasps, bees, or ants.
What is your insect protection method of choice for you and for your child?