It’s summertime. Mosquitoes and other bugs are in hot pursuit of you and your family. What’s the best way to keep from being bitten? When should you be concerned about a bite?
If your kids spend any time at all outside— which they should, for the exercise and fresh air— they will be bitten from time to time. “Bugs,” of course, is not an accurate scientific term. Even so, we’re using it here as an all-inclusive word to refer to insects (mosquitoes, bees, wasps, chiggers, biting flies, etc.) and arachnids (spiders, ticks, etc.).
Most bites on most people are relatively harmless, causing irritation, itching, and redness. Different bug bites can result in different types of skin reactions, and not all people react the same. Rarely, even serious allergic reactions or illness can result.
The best medicine, as always, is prevention. Avoid times and places where mosquitoes and other biting bugs congregate.
Mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk. They love standing water in puddles and ponds. You are more likely to attract mosquitoes if you’re wearing dark clothing, including socks. They are attracted to your perspiration and sometimes to a scent to you may be wearing. Biting flies may be most common in wooded areas and around animals or garbage.
Repellents can be very helpful, especially against mosquitoes. However, you need to be cautious when choosing a repellent, especially for children. DEET is particularly effective against mosquitoes and some other bugs, but should be used with caution (see below). This is also true of permethrin, which is effective against ticks. Insect repellents should not be used at all on children younger than two months old.
There is terrific information in this article from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here is their list of do’s and don’ts when you use insect repellents:
- 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. Note: Permethrin-containing products should not be applied to skin.
- Spray repellents in open areas to avoid breathing them in.
- Use just enough repellent to cover your child’s clothing and exposed skin. Using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective. Avoid reapplying unless needed.
- 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.
- Never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months.
- 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.
- Do not use products that combine DEET with sunscreen. The DEET may make the sun protection factor (SPF) less effective. These products can overexpose your child to DEET because the sunscreen needs to be reapplied often.”
To treat a bug bite, you may apply ice for a few minutes every hour or two. Calamine lotion may be applied to stop the itching. Some people also find that baking soda mixed with water decreases their itching.
When should you seek medical attention for a bug bite? If anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction, which may include difficulty breathing – see definition from the Mayo Clinic here) occurs, get to an emergency room immediately. Sudden hives are also a cause for concern and could be a sign of anaphylaxis. Otherwise, if the bite begins to look infected, or the reddened area around it is increasing in size larger than a quarter, keep an eye on it and check with your pediatrician’s office. You can use a Sharpie to mark the edges of the red area in order to note its progression.
Next time, more about stinging insects.
© MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved, 2015