Although once considered just a nuisance, insect bites can lead to serious medical problems. Not only can certain insects spread diseases like Zika and West Nile Virus, the bites themselves can become infected with bacteria, like Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).
Since bites are itchy, even without any worries about health problems, it is a good idea to try to protect your kids from insect bites by learning how to apply an insect repellent properly.
Read the label on your insect repellent and follow the directions and precautionary statements closely and follow these tips.
- In an open area, which will help avoid breathing in the insect repellent spray or mist, hold the insect repellent about 6 to 8 inches from your child.
- Apply the insect repellent on your child’s exposed skin and his clothing, avoiding skin under clothing, and your child’s mouth, eyes, hands, open cuts, or irritated skin.
- To apply an insect repellent to your child’s face, first spray a small amount of the insect repellent on to your own hands and then carefully apply it to your child’s face and neck, being sure to avoid his mouth and eyes. Do not spray the insect repellent directly on your child’s face.
- If you need to apply both an insect repellent and a sunscreen on your child, apply the sunscreen first.
- Only reapply an insect repellent if your child is getting bitten by insects again.
- Wash the insect repellent off of your child’s skin with soap and water after they return indoors, have them change their clothes, and be sure to wash their clothes before they wear them again.
- In addition to an insect repellent, try other things to avoid biting insects, such as dressing your kids in thin, loose-fitting, long-sleeve clothing that doesn’t include bright colors, encouraging your kids to wear socks and shoes instead of sandals, avoiding scented soaps and other things that might attract mosquitoes and other bugs, and controlling mosquitoes and other insects where your kids play. Avoid standing or still water, where mosquitoes breed.
- Do not use an insect repellent that has a concentration of more than 30% DEET on children, or use an insect repellent on infants who are less than two months old. Keep in mind that although there are many natural insect repellents without DEET or picaridin, such as those made with oil of lemon eucalyptus, citronella oil, or soy bean oil, they may not be as effective as those with DEET or picaridin.
- Use just enough insect repellent, since using more doesn’t make it work better or last longer. Even higher concentrations of DEET in insect repellents simply make them last longer, they don’t make them repel insects better.
- Avoid combination sunscreen/insect repellent products, since they are often less effective than using the individual sunscreen and insect repellents. Also, sunscreen needs to be re-applied far more often than bug spray, which can lead to over-use of bug spray.
- Call poison control (1-800-222-1222) if your child inhales or ingests an insect repellent or gets an insect repellent in his eyes or on a cut.