Don't let the bugs bite

by Alison Gwinn
Health.mil

FORT LEE, Va. — Warmer temperatures of late spring and summer mean more outdoor family activities. It's important to make sure that time is safe for everyone, especially children.

Most parents do a good job of protecting their kids from the sun, but they also need to consider why it's important to guard against potentially harmful insect bites and stings.

Youngsters may come in contact with spiders, ticks, mosquitoes, ants, bees and wasps when they play outdoors. The stings and bites of these insects are the most common types reported to health care providers.

While most insect bites/stings only result in mild, local reactions, some are far more serious. Ticks, for instance, can infect their hosts with Lyme disease as well as other illnesses, and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile, Zika or Chikungunya viruses.

West Nile and Zika are the most recent mosquito-borne illnesses in the news. They can cause flu-like symptoms, but they also can bring on serious complications in some cases.

Lyme disease is the most common infection from deer ticks, and reported cases are on the rise. Symptoms include fever, aches and fatigue. There also may be a bullseye rash around the site of the bite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 30,000 cases of Lyme disease diagnosed every year in the U.S. Virginia is among the top three states with confirmed cases.

To discourage insect stings and bites and better protect family members from their harmful effects, follow these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC:

• Wear repellent containing DEET when outside. It is safe for children as young as 2 months old. The AAP recommends using insect repellents with up to 30 percent DEET. Parents should choose the lowest concentration that provides the required length of coverage. Keep in mind 10 percent DEET provides about two hours of protection, increasing to about five hours with 30 percent.

• There are products available for parents worried about the safety of DEET. Repellents made with Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are alternatives. Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under age three.

• Always follow directions as they appear on the product label. Generally, repellent with DEET should not be applied more than once a day. Apply only to exposed skin and clothing. Repellents should not be applied under clothing.

• Keep repellents away from the mouth or eyes, and apply sparingly around ears. Also avoid areas with cuts, wounds or irritated skin.

• For greater control, use your hands when applying repellent to the face. Never spray it directly at your face.

• Never allow children to handle the repellent. Parents should apply it on their skin using the spray-on-hands method. Keep repellent away from children's hands because they are more likely to put them in or near their mouth or eyes.

• Do not use products containing insect repellent and sunscreen. Because it should be used more frequently, apply sunscreen separately.

• After returning indoors, use soap and water to wash off repellent. If a child develops a rash or other reaction, stop using the repellent, wash it off with soap and water, and call the poison control center for further guidance if severe (1-800-222-1222) or call your health care provider if mild.

• Wearing long pants tucked into socks and a long-sleeved shirt will help protect against mosquitoes and tick bites. Light colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot and also makes children less attractive to bees.

• Make sure there is no standing water in your yard. This includes empty containers, fire pits and birdbaths. Mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in standing water.

• Do not use sweet-smelling perfumes/sprays, lotions, or hair products on children when outdoors.

• Be careful near woodpiles, sheds, dark corners of the garage and other places that spiders may hide.

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