The Buzz on Avoiding Insect Bites
With summer here, parents are constantly bugging me about what they can do to protect their children and themselves from those ever-present mosquitoes. Well let me try to bite into this problem, and provide five solutions that hopefully will not sting:
- First, the best way to avoid being bitten is to avoid areas where mosquitoes tend to nest or gather, such as near stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods, and gardens with flowers in bloom, particularly between dusk and dawn.
- Don’t have your child looking like a flower, either. This means wearing light clothing but avoiding bright floral colors. Khaki, beige, and olive seem not to be attractive to mosquitoes.
- Nor should you have them smelling like a flower. Certain odors can also attract the bugs – so avoid fragrances in soaps, shampoos, and lotions at this time of year, except for citronella lotions which do seem to keep the bugs away.
- If you want to protect your child beyond the clothing and lack of fragrant odor, you can try an insect repellent on exposed areas of the skin. The most effective compounds are still those that contain the chemical DEET but these should be used sparingly on children over the age of 2 months, because if too much is absorbed into the skin, it can cause convulsions and even a coma. A repellant that contains 30% or less of DEET can be used safely if applied sparingly to exposed skin no more than every 6 hours, although not to the hands if a child is prone to suck their thumbs. Clothing made of synthetic fibers can be damaged by DEET, so consider spraying clothing with another chemical called permethrin. This chemical will protect clothing quite nicely, but it doesn’t work as well on skin.
- If a bite does occur, the mainstay of therapy is cool compresses, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen. If swelling of the face or mouth occurs, or nausea, vomiting, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately because these may be signs of a serious allergic reaction.
Hopefully tips like this will take care of business – or is that “buzz-iness” – when it comes to dealing with those pesky summer insects. .
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids.