Fight the bite: Ways to keep mosquitoes away from your kids
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Little pests have caused problems for lots of little ones this summer due to an abundance of rain.
Concerns about chemicals cause many parents to refrain from using bug spray.
Though rare, bug bites can cause even bigger issues that itching and irritated skin.
"It is quite rare but we have seen things like eastern equine encephalitis in this area so mosquito bites are usually harmless, no big deal, but rarely they can be dangerous," said Dr. David Hill, a pediatrician at Kidzcare Pediatrics in Wilmington.
Hill says using traditional bug sprays containing DEET are not harmful to children, especially at concentrations of less than 30 percent.
For children six months and younger, Hill said it is best to avoid bites altogether.
"The fact is DEET probably does work best and it doesn't seem to be harmful to children," Hill said. "There's a newer product which some people consider a little more natural called picaridin and it seems to work almost as well as DEET.
"DEET hasn't been studied under six months so we use avoidance in infants and really young children. Not that anybody knows if it's harmful, just nobody really knows."
Children are more likely to be bitten than adults, which make precautionary measures necessary.
Hill recommends keeping children in long-sleeved shirts and added that staying indoors during peak mosquito feeding times like dawn and dusk can help prevent bites.
"Kids are at an increased risk partly because they breathe more than we do so all that carbon dioxide that they're emitting tells the mosquitoes, 'Hey, over here,'" Hill said. "Also, they're low (to the ground). They're down there where the puddles are and where the mosquitoes like to congregate so they certainly are at increased risk
"There's citronella products, things you can wear, things you can spray on. They're not as effective as DEET but they may be somewhat helpful."
Hill also said it is not necessary to re-apply bug spray. If spraying your children still makes you nervous, Hill recommends only spraying their clothing and not their skin as the smell will still repel mosquitoes.
"Unlike sunscreen, which you should apply every two hours, you should really only apply it once," Hill said. "It should last the rest of the time. If you are going to use DEET, you can go for a lower concentration of DEET. So your deep woods concentrations may be as high as 30 percent, but really a 6 or 12 percent product should work just fine."
While mosquito bites rarely cause serious health concerns, excessive scratching can lead to skin irritation. Hill says keeping fingernails short and hands clean can help prevent infection.
Using antihistamines, ice, or covering the bites with clothing can also keep kids from scratching to the point of infection.
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