They are annoying bloodsuckers who lurk around the campfire, on woody paths and in the backyard.
And since warmer weather signals sprinkler splashes, s’mores, and camp-outs for kids, it also means the return of those summer spoilers – mosquitoes, ticks, and their dreaded insect bites.
While they’re usually just irritating, bites from the two insects can potentially transmit disease as well. But choosing the right child repellent or protection can be confusing for some families CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Child Health Survey at Michigan Medicine.
“There are different types of repellants, and some are more effective than others. Parents should look for ways to choose the best one for their child based on how much time they spend outside and where, ”he says Heather Burrows, MD, Ph.D., a pediatrician with Michigan Medicine CS Mott Children’s Hospital.
“Usually mosquito and tick bites are just a nuisance that causes temporary discomfort. However, there is a small and more serious risk that they will spread disease too, ”she adds.
“As long as families take the right precautions and keep an eye on children after being outdoors, these insects shouldn’t prevent them from enjoying summer fun.”
While this is unusual, mosquitoes can transmit viruses such as Zika, West Nile, and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), which can potentially cause disability or death in humans and animals.
In the summer of 2019, EEE made a comeback in the US, with a significantly higher number of cases reported than the typical average of eight cases per year. The virus can cause a mild, flu-like illness, but a third of those who develop a condition called encephalitis – when the virus inflames the brain – die.
MORE FROM MICHIGAN: Sign up for our weekly newsletter
For several summers, ticks were widespread in certain parts of the country, including Michigan and the Midwest. One of the diseases they can carry is Lyme disease, a potentially serious bacterial infection that can cause fever, chills, headache, and fatigue, as well as joint pain and weakness in the limbs.
Burrows offers parents 6 top tips to help keep little ones safe from these pesky insects.
1. Use DEET, but with caution
Among parents who treat their children with insect repellants, only one in three uses sprays containing N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), which are most effective against mosquitoes, according to the Mott survey.
DEET, when used as directed, has been tested and approved for children two months and older, although experts recommend choosing a repellent with a concentration of no more than 30%.
Other important recommendations: Use only once a day, use in an area with good ventilation, do not apply to cracked or sunburned skin, and do not use around mouth, eyes or hands.
“I tell the parents to spray a hat, let it dry, and then put it on their little child. That helps keep the bugs off a person’s face, ”says Burrows. “
Because sunscreens need to be reapplied regularly, Burrows does not recommend a combination of sunscreen and bug spray.
The percentage of DEET determines how long it will take, so Burrows also suggests using the lowest possible percentage.
“If your kids are only outside for an hour or two, you can get away with less concentration – 6 to 7% last about two hours,” she says. “But if you’re taking a long hike in the woods and you’re outside longer, consider 30% DEET, which can take six hours.”
Families should also wash their hands with soap and water after applying DEET-containing products, and wash clothes before wearing them again, she says.
2. Consider alternatives for error protection
About 30% of parents in the Mott survey use “natural” or homemade products. Lemon eucalyptus oil may be a good alternative for those who prefer a natural, chemical-free repellant, but should only be used for children over the age of three.
Like podcasts? add the Michigan Medicine News Break on your Alexa-enabled device or Subscribe for daily updates iTunes, Google play and Stitcher.
Another option is a product called Picaridin. But these alternatives don’t last as long as DEET and have to be reapplied throughout the day, says Burrows.
The choice of clothing can also provide protection, e.g. B. Make sure children wear pants, long sleeves, light colored clothing, and always wear shoes outside.
“If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Tuck the pants into your socks to prevent ticks from climbing into your pant leg, ”says Burrows.
Staying inside before sunrise and after dark will also reduce the risk of insect bites.
3. Protect from ticks
According to Mott’s poll, parents are twice as likely to be concerned about disease-transmitting ticks as they are about mosquitos. However, there are two main types of ticks – wood and deer.
Wooden ticks are about the size of a watermelon core. Deer ticks are smaller, somewhere between the size of a poppy seed and an apple seed.
Deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease, but only in less than 2% of tick bites. Wood ticks can transmit another infection, Rocky Mountain spotted fever.