Keeping the Insects Away

Much of the country has been experiencing heavy bouts of rain this summer. During this time of year, that rain and resulting stagnant water often lead to a surge in the number of mosquitoes. In addition, the other typical insects that we associate with summer fun (ticks, bees, wasps, etc.) are around, too.

Besides leaving their irritating bites and stings, some of these insects can transmit potentially dangerous illnesses to people. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help keep these pesky bugs away.

  • Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes, or hair sprays on your child. Many bugs are attracted to the scents.
  • Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods, and gardens where flowers are in bloom.
  • Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
  • To remove a visible stinger from the skin, gently back it out by scraping over it with a credit card or your fingernail.
  • Don’t use combination sunscreen/insect repellent products. Why? Because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, but insect repellent should not be reapplied that frequently.

DEET

The strongest and most effective insect repellents are those that contain DEET (chemical name N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET has the reputation of being a strong, “no-nonsense” chemical; however, the Environmental Protection Agency has found no evidence of incidents that would lead the agency to see a need to restrict the use of DEET.

Therefore, go ahead and use insect repellents that contain DEET when you are really concerned about preventing insect-related diseases in yourself and your children. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus, as well as other viruses.

Some tips when using products containing DEET

  • The current AAP and CDC recommendation for children older than 2 months of age is to use products that contain 10 percent to 30 percent DEET.
  • DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age.
  • The effectiveness of products containing 10 percent and 30 percent DEET is similar, but the duration of their effects varies. Ten percent DEET provides protection for about 2 hours, while 30 percent DEET protects for about 5 hours. Choose the lowest concentration that will provide the required length of coverage.
  • The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the labels of any products you are considering purchasing. When children return indoors, they should always shower or bathe to wash off insect repellents.

As an alternative to DEET, picaridin has become available in the U.S. in concentrations of 5 percent to 10 percent. Some sprays, such as permethrin, are available that can be sprayed onto clothing to help deter insects and thus decrease the amount of insect repellent applied to the skin. These products may be particularly useful in infants under 2 months of age.

©1996-2013, Johns Hopkins University. All rights reserved. Disclosure: The information provided here is compiled by The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with editorial supervision by one or more of the members of the faculty of the School of Medicine pursuant to a license agreement with Yahoo! Inc. under which the School of Medicine and its faculty editors receive licensing fees and payment for services rendered within the scope of the License Agreement. Johns Hopkins subscribes to the HONcode principles of the Health on the Net Foundation. 

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