Depending on where you live, you’re probably hearing a lot about mosquitoes, ticks and disease transmission.
A wet spring, followed by a hot summer, yields a bumper crop of busy, buzzy mosquitoes and this year has already shown to be a heavy mosquito season and will remain so until the first frosts of fall.
Of course bug bites are itchy, unsightly and annoying, and young children tend to scratch them vigorously, which means they may become infected. Of even more concern, is the fact that the insects may transmit serious disease. Mosquitoes are associated with Eastern Equine Encephalopathy (EEE) and Western Nile Virus (WNV). Ticks may transmit serious illnesses including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
There are simple things you can do to reduce mosquito bites:
- Remove sources of standing water from your yard where mosquitoes breed. This includes bird baths, kiddy pools, toys and buckets, and trays under flower pots. Dump water at least twice a week.
- Use bug netting on infant seats and strollers when outdoors, especially in the evening when mosquitoes are most active. Repair any household window screens where bugs may enter.
- Wear light-colored clothing and keep arms and legs and feet covered, especially dusk to dawn and when in wooded areas.
- Use approved and effective bug repellents in a safe manner to protect your family from disease-transmitting bugs and bites.
Are bug repellents safe for infants and toddlers?
If you’re strolling home from dinner downtown, using bug netting on infant seats and on strollers may be all that’s needed. If you’re planning a family walk in the woods or settling in for an evening concert on the town green, you’ll need to step it up a notch and that means a repellent.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) both recommend using DEET-containing repellents for best effectiveness against biting insects and ticks.
Using DEET-containing Insect Repellents with Babies, Toddlers, Pregnant and Nursing Women
If you are outdoors in an area where EEE or West Nile carrying mosquitoes have been detected, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend using DEET as the most effective insect repellent.
Look for a child formulation of insect repellent containing 10% DEET which will be effective for about 2 hours. DEET is approved and considered safe by the AAP for use on children over two months old and for pregnant and nursing women. Higher concentrations of DEET are not more effective – they are simply designed to last longer. 30% DEET is the maximum concentration recommended for infants and children and may provide protection for 4-5 hours.
When using DEET-containing repellents on infants and toddlers, follow these guidelines:
- Do not spray on children’s skin directly: apply to your own hands first and then apply to your child, avoiding the hands, eyes and mouth.
- After returning indoors, wash a DEET-containing repellent off the skin or bathe your child with mild soap and water.
- Choose separate, not combined sunscreen and insect repellents. Sunscreen should be used generously and reapplied often whereas bug spray should be used sparingly. Keep those products separate so you may apply each as needed.
What about natural alternatives, essential oils and other DEET-free options?
In addition to DEET, products containing picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products also may provide protection. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is not recommended for children under age three however.
Garlic, wrist bands, citronella and bug “zappers” are not effective against biting insects and ticks.
Following these simple suggestions will help your family enjoy summer fun outdoors while limiting unwelcome bites from mosquitoes or worry about ticks transmitting illness. Enjoy your summer outdoors – safely!