Summertime brings us outside. When summer occurs during times of COVID, we become more creative with activities for our families. This means more people will be outside exploring new areas. Staying active outside is a wonderful activity, if you and your children are protected from sunburns and insects. Most children have mild reactions to insect bites, but some can make your child feel miserable. Below are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for using insect repellents correctly and safely.
“Insect repellents come in many forms, including aerosols, sprays, liquids, creams, and sticks. Some are made from chemicals and some have natural ingredients. Insect repellents prevent bites from biting insects but not stinging insects. Biting insects include mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and biting flies. Stinging insects include bees, hornets, and wasps.”
Products not listed in this table, that are not effective include: wristbands containing repellents, Vitamin B1 or garlic taken orally, devices that produce ultrasonic sound waves, and bug zappers.
Occasionally we hear parent concerns about DEET, a chemical in insect repellents. We follow the recommendations from the AAP that DEET is the “gold standard” of insect repellents and is “safe and effective when used according to the directions on the product labels.” The strength recommended for children is 10-30 % DEET and it should not be used on an infant under 2 months of age. Guidelines for application of DEET-based repellents are as follows:
- “Use just enough repellent to lightly cover but not saturate the skin.
- Repellents should be applied to exposed skin, clothing, or both but not under clothing.
- A thin layer can be applied to the face by dispensing repellent into the palms, rubbing hands together, and then applying to the face.
- Repellent should be washed from the palms after application to prevent contact with the eyes, mouth, and genitals.
- Do not use repellents over cuts and wounds or inflamed, irritated, or eczematous skin.
- Do not inhale aerosols, spray them in enclosed spaces or near food, or get them into the eyes.
- Do not apply insect repellent to the hands of small children, as it will inevitably be rubbed into the eyes.
- Frequent reapplication of repellent is unnecessary.
- The areas treated with repellent should be washed with soap and water once the repellent is no longer needed.
- If both sunscreen and repellent are being applied, sunscreen should be applied first, and repellent should be applied after. It is better to use separate sunscreen and repellent products, as sunscreen generally needs to be reapplied more frequently than repellent.”
In addition to application of insect repellents, we can protect our families in other ways as well.
- “Tell your child to avoid areas that attract flying insects, such as garbage cans, stagnant pools of water, and flowerbeds or orchards.
- Dress your child in long pants, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, socks, and closed shoes when you know your child will be exposed to insects. A broad-brimmed hat can help to keep insects away from the face. Mosquito netting may be used over baby carriers or strollers in areas where your baby may be exposed to insects.
- Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints because they seem to attract insects.
- Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes, or hair sprays on your child because they may attract insects.
- Keep door and window screens in good repair.
- Check your child’s skin at the end of the day if you live in an area where ticks are present, and your child has been playing outdoors.
- Remember that the most effective repellent for ticks is permethrin. It should not be applied to skin but on your child’s clothing.”
Rarely, insect repellents can cause a rash or reaction. If this has occurred, wash with soap and water and call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or our office. If it appears to you that your child’s insect bite is becoming infected, or you are concerned, please call our office.