Don't Bug Me: Preventing Bug Bites
Bugs are part of our summer landscape. And while most bug bites are just an itchy nuisance, some bugs that bite carry viruses and infection. The best way to combat bites is to prevent them.
Repellent: What to know before you buy
1. Choose a lotion or a pump spray product over an aerosol.
2. Know that repellents work on biting insects like mosquitoes, biting flies and ticks, but they don't repel stinging insects like bees and hornets.
3. Lotions that combine DEET and sunscreen might sound like a good idea, but they aren't. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every few hours, but combination products may overexpose your child to DEET. Apply each product separately, and always follow the directions on the label.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend using a product with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, PMD or IR3535 (Avon Skin so Soft) for skin and clothing. Repellent efficacy and duration of protection varies considerably among products and insect species.
DEET is a highly effective repellent, but it's important that it's used correctly.
- DEET offers the best and broadest protection against biting insects.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used on children contain no more than 30% DEET.
- Higher percentages of DEET increase the length of protection, not the effectiveness.
- The AAP recommends that DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age.
Picaridin is a non-toxic, colorless, odorless synthetic ingredient found in some bug repellents. It is relatively new in the United States, but has been used in Europe for more than 10 years. It has similar efficacy to DEET and provides long-lasting protection against mosquitoes and tics. Products with Picaridin can be used on babies as young as 2 months.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE or PMD) is a natural oil that has proven efficacy for protection against mosquitoes, but not ticks. It has not been studied in young children, and not recommended for use in children younger than 3 years old.
Natural repellents are made with plant oils such as citronella, lemongrass and peppermint. Limited efficacy and short duration. They generally need to be reapplied often to be effective, and are all considered less effective than DEET, Picaridin and PMD.
Repellents: How to Apply?
Once you've chosen a bug repellent, it's important that you use it properly in order for it to be safe. Here are some tips:
- Always follow the instructions for application.
- Children under 10 should not apply bug repellent themselves.
- Apply product only to exposed skin. Avoid hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritations.
- Put it on your hands first, then rub it on your child so you don't use too much.
- Wash your hands after application.
- Apply repellent outside only and never near food.
- Wash the repellent off when your child is done being outside.
Other smart ways to keep bugs at bay:
- Avoid being outside from dusk until dawn - these are peak mosquito hours.
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with tall grass.
- When outdoors, be careful eating or drinking uncovered foods or beverages, which can attract insects.
- Don't go barefoot. Wear closed-toe shoes when walking in grassy areas.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots.
- Always do a full body check for ticks after going inside.