Mosquito Bites 101

Mosquitoes thrive in the hot summer months, most of us probably have experienced a red, itchy welt recently. Teresa Wright, MD, Chief of Pediatric Dermatology at Le Bonheur, shares how to protect your child from those pesky insects. She also explains what to look for in an insect repellent and how to treat itchy bites.

What can I do to protect my child from mosquito bites?

  • Cover up! Put your child in light weight long sleeves and pants as much as possible.
  • Eliminate standing water around your home (e.g., garbage cans and clogged gutters).
  • Avoid wooded areas and bodies of standing water (e.g., ponds, drainage ditches).
  • Avoid using scented lotions or perfumes on your child.
  • Repair holes in window and door screens.
  • Use inexpensive mosquito netting over your child’s stroller.
  • Use insect repellent on your child for outdoor activities.

What should I look for in an insect repellent?

  • Look for a spray or wipe/towelette that contains DEET (10-30 percent is OK) or picaridin (5 percent) as the active ingredient.
  • If your child has sensitive skin, picaridin is less likely to cause skin irritation.
  • Avoid combination products containing sunscreen and insect repellent.

What about “natural” insect repellents?

In general, products containing “natural” ingredients (e.g., citronella, cedar, etc.) have been shown to be less effective than products containing DEET or picaridin.

How should I apply insect repellent to my child?

  1. Do not use insect repellent on infants less than 2 months old.
  2. For sprays, lightly apply the product to your child’s clothing and exposed skin, avoiding the face and palms. For the face, spray the product into your hand and apply it sparingly to the face and ears, avoiding the eyes and mouth. It is important that your child does not inhale any spray product.
  3. For small children, it is best not to apply repellent more than once daily. Also, remember to bathe your child when they come indoors.

What can I do for my child’s itchy bites?

  • Oral Children’s Benadryl® usually helps with local swelling and itching.
  • Avoid use of topical products containing Benadryl® as they can cause an itchy rash.
  • An ice pack or cool compress also soothes swelling and itching.
  • Lukewarm or cool baths with oatmeal or baking soda help some children.
  • Over the counter anti-itch lotions (e.g., Sarna® lotion) may be helpful.
  • Try to discourage scratching and keep your child’s nails trimmed.
  • If your child develops a diffuse rash or hives, facial or lip swelling, and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

outdoor