Bug bites are a summer bummer. Although they’re common in the warmer months, bites are preventable. We’ve rounded up five tips to help you and your family avoid the itch.
Summer. The days are long and your family is spending more time outdoors with nature — which means more contact with pesky bugs. Of course bug bites can hamper your child’s summer fun, so follow these tips to make sure your child’s summer is scratch free.
1. Invest in bug repellent.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using insect repellents containing DEET when needed to prevent Lyme disease from ticks and West Nile, Zika and other viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. The AAP recommends using a repellent with no more than 30 percent DEET on children. Surprisingly, the greater percentage of DEET does not offer more bug protection for your child, instead it refers to the length of time DEET is effective. (Keep in mind the AAP says never to apply bug repellent to children younger than two months.)
Choosing a bug repellent to protect your child can depend on many factors including the active ingredient, insect(s) and time spent outdoors. Conveniently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a search tool with information on the active ingredients of EPA-registered products including both chemical (DEET, Picaridin) and natural options, which some parents may prefer (catnip oil, oil of citronella, oil of lemon eucalyptus). Note that natural products generally need to be reapplied more often than chemical products.
The EPA emphasizes to carefully read and follow the label instructions of any bug repellent product. Apply repellent to your child to ensure a safe, even application, washing your hands afterward. Do not let your child apply the repellent by themselves. Also, thoroughly wash your child’s skin with soap and water, removing all bug repellent, when they return indoors.
2. Cover up with breathable layers in light colors.
It’s important to realize exposed skin is vulnerable skin. Be sure to tuck in shirts and secure buttons. Dress your child in breathable layers — pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks and closed toed shoes offer an additional deterrent to bugs beyond bug repellant, and light colors will also help keep your child cool. Bug repellent can also be sprayed on clothing (recommended if your child has sensitive skin). Remember, never spray bug repellent on an exposed cut to the skin or near the eyes. Also, wash clothing sprayed in insect repellent before your child wears it again.
3. Stay fragrance free.
Scent certainly plays a role in how appealing your child is to some biting beasts. Beware of your child’s scented shampoo, soap or body lotion in the summer months. They can unintentionally make your child especially vulnerable to bites.
4. Avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk.
Mosquitoes are especially active at times when the sunlight is filtered instead of directly overhead. Ultimately the best protection for your child is to stay indoors at these times.
5. Separate sunscreen from bug spray.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend products combining sunscreen and bug repellent. Why? Because sunscreen wears off faster and may need to be reapplied more often and in larger amounts than bug repellent. In general, the CDC recommends using separate products, applying sunscreen first and then applying the repellent. Limited data shows a one-third decrease in the sun protection factor (SPF) of sunscreens when DEET-containing insect repellents are used after a sunscreen is applied. Take the time to apply each product separately to your child.
Learn more safety tips for healthy families at BestMEDICINE Kids.