Warmer weather means more chances for kids to get outside to play, hike and enjoy the fresh air with family and friends. Warmer weather also means preventing insect bites.
Biting insects such as mosquitoes and biting flies can make children miserable. More worrisome is that bites from some insects can cause serious illnesses.
Beyond the itch: illnesses carried by insects
Insect-transmitted illnesses include Lyme Disease, West Nile Disease, Zika, and others from mosquito and tick bites. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insect-borne illnesses are on the rise.
One way to protect your child from biting insects is to use insect repellents. When there’s a possibility of getting a serious illness, such as Lyme disease, transmitted by an insect bite, make sure you choose repellent that is effective – meaning that it works well. It’s also important to know how to use repellants correctly and safely.
Tips for choosing and applying insect repellent on your child
- Choose products in the form of sticks, lotions or unpressurized sprays.
- Read the label and follow all directions and precautions.
- Only apply insect repellents on the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin – not under clothing.
- Use just enough repellent to cover your child’s clothing and exposed skin. Using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective.
- Use spray repellents in open areas to avoid breathing them in.
- Help apply insect repellent on young children. Supervise older children when using these products.
- Wash your children’s skin with soap and water to remove any repellent when they return indoors and wash their clothing before they wear it again.
- Keep repellents out of young children’s reach to reduce the risk of unintentional swallowing.
- Avoid sprays in pressurized containers to avoid inhaling the product or getting it into eyes.
- Never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months of age. Instead, use mosquito netting over baby carriers or strollers in areas where your baby may be exposed to insects.
- Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands; children sometimes put hands in their mouth and eyes.
- Avoid repellent candles that may trigger breathing problems when fumes are inhaled.
- Never spray insect repellent directly onto your child’s face. Instead, spray a little on your hands first and then rub it on your child’s face. Avoid the eyes and mouth.
- Do not spray insect repellent on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
While you can’t prevent all insect bites, these steps can help reduce them:
- 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.
- Keep door and window screens in good repair. Remove any outside places with standing water where mosquitoes may breed.
- Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes, or hair sprays on your child because they may attract insects.
- Use mosquito nets and fans in outdoor eating areas.
- Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints because they may attract insects.
- 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. Remove ticks safely.
Insect repellents don’t kill insects but work by keeping insects away from the person using them. Keep in mind that they repel insects that bite but not insects that sting. Biting insects include mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and biting flies. Stinging insects include bees, hornets, and wasps.
Talk with your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions about protecting your child from insect bites.