Mosquitoes can bring with them all sorts of illnesses. Dengue, chikungunya and malaria are among the more common mosquito-related illnesses in India. Fortunately, they are preventable.
Here’s how to stop a mosquito, ant, bee, fly or spider bite or sting from hurting your baby, toddler or small child, plus bite symptoms and treatment options to keep in mind. Insects can be fun for children when they’re part of popular songs and nursery tales like Ants Go Marching and Eency Weency Spider, but experiencing a real life bug or spider bite can zap the fun out of spring and summer activities. Fortunately, we’ve put together all the information parents need to know about insect bites, including the CDC’s recommendations for prevention, facts about DEET versus Picaridin repellents, and the types of bites and stings as well as the symptoms and treatment options moms and dads should know.
While many bug bite prevention steps are the same for adults and children, there are many additional precautions parents should take when trying to prevent insect bites and stings in little ones. Here is a list of general precautions for all ages, plus an additional list of special instructions that apply to infants and children.
Avoid scented products. Mosquitoes are attracted to the scents in many products such as soap, perfume, and even hair spray. Use unscented personal products to keep mosquitoes from attacking your baby. Consider smelling products before you use them or read the labels to ensure they’re unscented or only lightly scented.
Put on protective clothing. If you’re going to be in a mosquito-heavy area or outside for longer periods of time, dress your baby in loose, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Clothing can help prevent bites on its own or be used in conjunction with chemical or natural repellent products.
- Put moderately loose-fitting and light-colored fabrics on your baby. This can prevent bugs from biting through the clothing. Make sure that as much of your baby’s skin as possible is covered by the clothing. Have him or her wear long pants, long-sleeved, shirts, and closed toe socks or shoes. You may also want to protect your baby’s head with a hat.
- Avoid bright or flowered-print clothing, which can attract mosquitoes.
DEET Versus Picaridin. Though some experts warn that non-natural insect repellents could be dangerous for children, DEET is a substance that has been used for decades and is considered by most doctors and pediatricians to be safe for children over the age of 2 months. It has virtually no recorded adverse health effects, other than a contact skin rash in some people, when applied according to label instructions. Using a concentration of about 10% provides protection for about two hours.
- Example products containing DEET include Cutter Backwoods and Off! Deep Woods.
Created by Bayer in the 1980s, picaridin (also called KBR 3023, Bayrepel and icaridin) is made from a plant extract from the genus Piper (the same plant that produces table pepper). Made available in the US in 2005, it has quickly become a more popular choice than DEET because it’s just as effective without the greasy texture and unpleasant smell. Additionally, the EPA reports there have been no adverse health effects recorded from the use of picaridin, meaning it is also widely considered a safe product. However, it is still relatively new compared to DEET (which was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946), meaning long-term health risks have yet to be studied. Using a concentration of about 7% provides protection for about two hours.
- Example products containing picaridin include Cutter Advances, Repel Smart Spray, and Sawyer Premium.
Use a product with picaridin. In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that products containing picaridin are as safe as those with DEET.Picaridin is a synthetic compound derived from the plant Piper, which is the same plant that produces table pepper. If you’re concerned about DEET, consider trying a repellent with picaridin on your baby. Be aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics has not issued any recommendations on using picaridin on babies, but you may want to use the same rule of thumb as with DEET: only use it on babies older than two months.
- Buy products with picaridin at your local pharmacy, grocery store, large retailer, or outdoor store. Many companies such as OFF, Cutter Advanced, and Sawyer Premium have picaridin-based repellents.
- Expect to get three to eight hours of protection depending on the concentration of picaridin in the product. Picaridin comes in concentrations ranging from 7% to 20%. Concentrations between 5% and 10% offer one to two hours of protection, while those at 20% offer four to five hours of protection. Higher percentages only offer slightly longer protection.
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