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Protecting your child from bug bites
Q: We're having our family vacation at the lake, and there are always a lot of mosquitoes, biting flies and yellow jackets. What are good ways to protect my kids from bug bites?
A: Here are some basic tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

1. Avoid attracting insects. Don't use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your children. Don't dress your children in clothes with bright colors or flowery prints.

2. Avoid playing where insects nest or congregate. Stay away from stagnant pools of water, gardens where flowers are in bloom, and picnic areas with uncovered garbage cans. Also avoid playing outdoors at dusk, when mosquitoes are more plentiful.

3. Use effective insect repellent and follow safety precautions. Insect repellents containing DEET are the most effective against mosquitoes and a variety of other insects, including ticks. Here's some important instructions about DEET use:

  • Do not use it on children under 2 months of age.
  • Read the label and buy insect repellant with the appropriate concentration of DEET. The concentration in repellants ranges from less than 10 percent to more than 30 percent. The concentration affects how long the repellent lasts: 10 percent DEET lasts approximately two hours and 24 percent DEET lasts approximately five hours. Select the product with the lowest concentration effective for the amount of time you plan to spend outdoors. DEET should only be applied once a day. The benefits of DEET reach a peak at a concentration of 30 percent, which is also the maximum concentration currently recommended for infants and children.
  • Don't use products that combine DEET with sunscreen. Sunscreens often are reapplied every couple hours or after swimming, but DEET shouldn't be reapplied.
  • Apply DEET sparingly on exposed skin. Don't use it on skin covered by clothing. You can also apply DEET to clothing and hats.
  • Don't use DEET on the hands or around the eyes and mouths of young children.
  • Don't use DEET over cuts or irritated skin.
  • Don't spray DEET repellant near food or in enclosed areas.
  • After returning indoors, wash off treated skin with soap and water. Also wash treated clothing.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician