With summer here, many of us will find ourselves outdoors with friends and family, barbecuing, hiking and splashing around in the water. While you are enjoying warmer weather, so are some other uninvited guests: bugs.
Insects like mosquitoes, ticks, bees, bed bugs, fleas and flies may have a place in this “circle of life,” but they can also be real party poopers. If your child happens to get bitten or stung, most likely they’ll only have a mild reaction. However, stings and bites can foster some health problems, including allergic reactions and chronic illnesses.
Don’t let these pests get in the way of family fun! Brenda Kronborg, DO, a pediatrician with Banner Children's, shared some easy prevention tips for you and your family and ways you can avoid certain pests.
How to prevent insect bites and stings
When it comes to protecting you and your little ones from insects, remember these three things: physical barriers, repellents and avoidance.
Although your little one might want to wear their adorable flowery tank top, make sure exposed skin is covered up.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, long clothing (cotton and linen) as much as possible. Dress your child in clothing that covers their arms and legs.
- Wear hats to protect against ticks while walking in the woods, high grasses or bushes and regularly check their hair, skin, clothing and gear for ticks.
- Although your child might want to wear bright colors and flowery prints, opt for muted colors and patterns.
- Don’t use scented soaps, shampoos, deodorants and perfumes.
- Ensure that all door and window screens do not have tears or holes, and that they are tightly fitted.
- Cover any food, drinks, compost and garbage.
- Do not disturb hives, mounds or nests. Be aware of swarming bees and insects, stay calm and leave the area if they become agitated.
- Always wear shoes, both indoors and outdoors.
- Cover infant carriers with tight-fitting mosquito netting or place them under an insecticide-treated net when playing or resting.
- Sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net if you’re going to an area with risk of malaria or Japanese encephalitis. For maximum protection, find out if you need anti-malarial medications or if the Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for your trip.
When it comes to protecting against insects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using a spray, lotion, towelette or liquid repellent containing the active ingredient DEET or Picaridin.
“The current recommendation for children older than 2 months of age is to use repellents that contain no more than 30% DEET or 20% Picaridin,” Dr. Kronborg said. “Do not apply insect repellent on children younger than 2 months old. Talk to your doctor if you’ll be traveling with an infant to an area with a high risk of mosquito-transmitted illnesses.”
Dr. Kronborg provided these DO’s and DON’Ts for parents:
- DON’T apply repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts or irritated skin. Instead, spray into your hand and then apply to their face.
- DON’T use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
- DO follow manufacturer’s directions to ensure optimal protection. Re-apply in shorter time intervals if you find that you are starting to get bitten.
- DO pretreat clothing, shoes, boots and gear with permethrin that kills insects on contact; however, DON’T use permethrin directly on your skin.
- DON’T use products that combine sunscreen and DEET. Apply sunscreen first and wait 20 minutes before then applying repellent. Repellent may make your sunscreen less effective.
“If your child experiences a skin reaction to the repellent, stop use and contact their doctor for further advice,” Dr. Kronborg said. “To avoid irritation, wash repellent off children when you return inside.”
- Avoid areas that attract insects, such as trash, stagnant water, flowerbeds, tall grasses and brush.
- Heed travel warnings and recommendations and check the CDC Travel Health Notices so you can avoid areas of high risk.
- While traveling, choose hotel rooms or accommodations that have air conditioning or have windows with screens with no holes so bugs can’t get inside. If bugs can get in while you are sleeping, sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net if you’re going to an area with risk of malaria or Japanese encephalitis.
- Avoid outdoor activities from dusk to dawn in high-risk areas.
- Avoid purchasing furniture without thoroughly examining it, and never take any furniture from a dumpster or street corner no matter how good it looks.
If your child has a history of severe allergic reaction, carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you and have them wear an allergy identification band. However, whether they have a past history of a reaction or not, if they have an anaphylactic reaction to a bite or sting, call 911.
Don’t forget the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center is just a phone call away if you ever need advice about anything potentially poisonous: 1-800-222-1222.
For other summer safety tips for you and your family, visit bannerhealth.com.