It’s no secret that kids love to spend time outdoors—especially during the summertime. While this is a great way for kids to get their daily dose of exercise, it may also lead to encounters with pesky—or dangerous—bugs like mosquitoes, bees, wasps and ants.
Most bug bites are more annoying than harmful; however, if your child suffers an allergic reaction, things can turn dangerous very quickly. If this happens, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
Before your child heads outside again, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on things you can do to prevent bug bites and keep your child healthy and bite-free!
Dangers of Bug Bites
Although not all bug bites are harmful, some can spread dangerous diseases or cause reactions to children who are allergic.
Mosquitoes are the most notorious disease spreaders, with millions of people dying from mosquito-borne diseases each year. Some of the most well-known diseases include malaria, West Nile virus, Zika virus, yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya.
In addition to these dangerous diseasess, other bugs like ants, bees, wasps and even cockroaches can cause allergic reactions. In fact, an estimated 2 million Americans are allergic to the venom of stinging bugs, with many at risk for life-threatening allergic reactions.
If your child is stung or bitten by an insect and experiences symptoms like swelling of the lips, tongue or throat; shortness of breath; dizziness; rash; and vomiting, he or she may be having a serious allergic reaction. Seek medical attention immediately.
Get Rid of Any Standing Water
Standing, stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. In fact, it takes just 14 days for them to breed in a small amount of water, like that in a bird bath. If you’ve got standing water, such as a pond, in your backyard, you may want to consider getting guppies, minnows or mosquito fish to help keep the bugs at bay.
You can also treat any standing water with Bacillus thuringiensis—a natural bacteria that kills mosquito larvae without harming people, pets or plants. Keep an eye on rain gutters, old flower pots and small kiddie pools that can collect standing water.
Keep Bugs Outdoors
Protecting your home from bugs is a great way to prevent bites. Make sure all windows have a screen and encourage your kids to keep doors closed as much as possible.
If you sit on your outdoor patio regularly, put up netting around the area to keep mosquitoes away.
Take Advantage of Repellent
Chemical repellents are one of the best ways to prevent insect bites. If possible, opt for repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, PMD or IR3535 insecticide.
DEET has been tested and approved as safe for kids, but when using a repellent that contains DEET on your child, choose a lower concentration—one with no more than 10 to 30 percent DEET.
Women who are pregnant should choose a mosquito spray that has been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. DEET, the most effective repellent, picaridin, PMD and IR3535 are all considered safe.
Focus the repellent on the ankles, feet, lower legs and wrists, and keep it away from the eyes and mouth. If skin becomes irritated, stop using it.
For some reason, mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, like black, deep blue and red. To avoid bites, opt for lighter colors like white, cream or light gray.
You may also want to wear thicker fabrics and looser-fitting clothes, which offer better protection.
Limit Outdoor Time
Although mosquitoes can bite any time of day, they are most active during dusk and dawn (aka prime feeding times). If possible, try to avoid being outdoors during these times of day. If you must, take precautions. Use insect repellent and wear light-colored clothing.
Invest in a Large Fan Outside
Not only can a fan be a nice way to decorate your outdoor patio and keep things cool during the summer, it can also keep your deck free of mosquitoes. Many people do not know that mosquitoes can’t fly—or locate potential hosts—when wind speeds are higher than 10 miles per hour.
This is why you will often see mosquitoes flying low to avoid the outdoor winds that are stronger higher up. If you cannot invest in an outdoor fan or lack the space on your patio, consider a small stand-alone fan that will get the air moving.
What to Do If Your Child Gets Bit
If your child gets bit by a mosquito, you can head off swelling by applying ice to the bite as soon as possible and minimize itching with calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
While it’s so tempting, discourage your child from scratching. Their little fingernails can easily break the skin, which can cause an infection.
For a severe allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting, seek medical attention immediately. The most severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, causes swelling of the face, throat or tongue—making it difficult to breathe; a rapid pulse; and dizziness. It is considered a medical emergency.
Other symptoms of illness like fever, headache, nausea and vomiting can be treated by your family physician or your local Medical City Children’s Urgent Care.
We’ve got four locations in the DFW area, and our kid-friendly staff is ready to serve you.
Before your child’s appointment, be sure to use the Web Check-In® feature so you can avoid the waiting room and get right to the medical care your child needs.
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.