Spending time out of doors is just one of the many benefits of summer. Keeping kids safe from outdoor pests is sometimes a chore, especially in the age of the Zika and chikungunya viruses.
Both viruses are transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitos commonly found in the southern and southeast regions of the U.S. In addition to mosquitos, pests including flies, chiggers, ticks, and gnats can also cause health problems for children. Having a plan for limiting bug bites can help parents prepare for long summer evenings outdoors or time camping or hiking.
The first step to protecting your kids from pests is to keep your property free from mosquito breeding sites such as standing water. After rain, dump out any standing water (like children’s buckets, planters, empty lids, etc.). Mosquitos love still water and breed very quickly in these areas. When strolling, consider mosquito netting for the stroller, particularly in the early AM and at dusk. Keep little arms and legs covered in loose lightweight clothing for added protection.
Insect repellants are products that are applied to a person’s clothing or equipment (strollers, etc.) that contain chemicals that repel, kill, or decrease the danger associated with insects. When using chemical repellants, a few key points will help keep you and your children safe.
- Read all labels and use according to the directions.
- Do not apply insect repellants to the hands of infants and small children as they often use their hands to rub their eyes and/or put them in their mouths.
- DEET, the active chemical ingredient in many insect repellants, is approved by the EPA for use in humans of all ages. However, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend using insect repellants containing DEET in children under 2 months of age.
- The AAP and CDC recommend using a product containing between 10 and 30 percent DEET depending on how long you will be outside.
- Do not use combination sunscreens/insect repellant products on children, as sunscreens need to be reapplied frequently and insect repellants do not.
- Once you have returned inside, wash all body parts with soapy water to remove the insect repellant.
- Apply the insect repellant to a child by first putting it into your own hands then gently rubbing it over exposed areas, avoiding hands, mouth, and eyes.
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used in children under the age of three.
Insect repellants, like all chemicals, should be stored out of the reach of small children. If accidental ingestion occurs, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 regardless of where you live in the United States.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, May 2020
- With Zika and other viruses spread by insects, take extra care this summer to protect your children.
- According to the CDC, insect repellents containing DEET are safe to use in children over 2 months of age.
- Prevent mosquitoes breeding on your property by limiting standing water.
- Avoid combo sunscreen/insect repellent products.
I wish I hand read the hint about not putting repellant on my littles one’s hands a couple of days ago!! Thanks for easy to understand and specific recommendations.
This is so helpful – thank you! If I notice mosquito bites on my children (almost inevitable) what signs am I looking for to know if he/she has zika? Also, how quickly will I notice these post bites? Thanks so much!!!
Great question! Most people who become infected with the Zika virus have little to no symptoms. So a mild cold might be all you notice. Try and tease that out from a typical summer with toddlers and you’ll make yourself anxious. Treat any cold symptoms and fever as you would otherwise. There is no reason at this point to test healthy kids for the Zika virus. If you are pregnant, the rules are different. Talking with your OB is the best way to obtain accurate information regarding the need to test for the virus if you are pregnant.
Thank you Bundoo! Once again Bundoo is first to give us updated accurate information on a health issue. This time Zika…