Protecting Babies from Mosquito Bites
Mosquitoes are pesky insects that can bother and bite any person from infants to the elderly. Although generally harmless, mosquito bites can be itchy and make your child miserable. However, depending on where you live, mosquitos can also carry diseases such as dengue, Zika and malaria. By wearing mosquitos repellents and securing the surrounding environment, you can protect your baby from mosquitoes.
Repelling Mosquitoes from Baby’s Skin
- Avoid scented products. Mosquitoes are attracted to the scents in many products such as soap, perfume, and even hair spray. Use unscented personal products to keep mosquitoes from attacking your baby. Consider smelling products before you use them or read the labels to ensure they’re unscented or only lightly scented.
- Put on protective clothing. If you’re going to be in a mosquito-heavy area or outside for longer periods of time, dress your baby in loose, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Clothing can help prevent bites on its own or be used in conjunction with chemical or natural repellent products.
- Put moderately loose-fitting and light-colored fabrics on your baby. This can prevent bugs from biting through the clothing. Make sure that as much of your baby’s skin as possible is covered by the clothing. Have him or her wear long pants, long-sleeved, shirts, and closed toe socks or shoes. You may also want to protect your baby’s head with a hat.
- Avoid bright or flowered-print clothing, which can attract mosquitoes.
Apply a repellent with DEET if your baby is at least two months old. A chemical called DEET is considered by many medical professionals to be the best defense against mosquito and other bug bites. However, because of concerns about the safety of the specific concentration of DEET applied to children, you should use caution when using it on your baby. Do not use products with DEET on children younger than two months of age.
- Apply DEET-based products every two to five hours, depending on the concentration of DEET in the product. For example, a 10% DEET concentration will protect your baby for about two hours, while a 24% product can give your child about five hours of protection. Apply DEET sparingly to your baby, being sure to cover all exposed skin except areas too close to the eyes or mouth. Avoid putting it on any parts of your baby’s hands that may come in contact with his or her mouth or eyes.
- Avoid using any DEET product with a concentration of 30% or more. Many experts suggest sticking with a 10% concentration for safety. You should also avoid any DEET product with sunscreen, as the DEET can make the sunscreen ineffective and lead to sunburn and sunscreens need to be applied more frequently, which could lead to too much DEET exposure..
- Avoid putting any product with DEET on a baby less than two months of age. Instead, consider natural repellents and securing the environment around the baby.
- Ask your doctor or medical professional if you have any questions about applying DEET on your baby.
Use a product with picaridin. In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that products containing picaridin are as safe as those with DEET. Picaridin is a synthetic compound derived from the plant Piper, which is the same plant that produces table pepper. If you’re concerned about DEET, consider trying a repellent with picaridin on your baby. Be aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics has not issued any recommendations on using picaridin on babies, but you may want to use the same rule of thumb as with DEET: only use it on babies older than two months.
- Buy products with picaridin at your local pharmacy, grocery store, large retailer, or outdoor store. Many companies such as OFF, Cutter Advanced, and Sawyer Premium have picaridin-based repellents.
- Expect to get three to eight hours of protection depending on the concentration of picaridin in the product. Picaridin comes in concentrations ranging from 7% to 20%. Concentrations between 5% and 10% offer one to two hours of protection, while those at 20% offer four to five hours of protection. Higher percentages only offer slightly longer protection.
- Apply picaridin products only to exposed skin or skin under clothing through which a mosquito can pierce. Make sure to avoid putting it on the parts of your baby’s hand that come in contact with the mouth or eyes or too close to your baby’s eyes or mouth.
Consider commercially-produced natural repellents. Companies are increasingly offering insect repellents that contain essential oils such as citronella, cedar, eucalyptus and soybean. Like picaridin, the Centers for Disease Control found some of these products products as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitos. Considering trying one of these natural products if you want to avoid harsh chemicals on your baby’s delicate skin. Read product labeling to determine age restrictions, as some of these products may not be suitable for babies or children under three.
- Read the labels of products from California Baby, Buzz Away, and Bite Blocker to see the active natural repellents. Be aware that these products may also be non-toxic and hypoallergenic to help further protect your baby.
- You may need to reapply natural repellents every one and half to two hours to ensure maximum protection for your baby from mosquitos.
Spray permethrin on clothing. Permethrin is another chemical repellent that can effectively repel mosquitoes. However, unlike other repellents, you cannot apply permethrin to skin. You should apply permethrin spray to clothing or any other outdoor equipment that your wears or uses. There are currently no age restrictions on products coated in permethrin. You may want to use the same guidelines as for DEET and other repellents and not expose your baby to permethrin if he or she is under two months old.
- Be aware that permethrin will stay on your baby’s clothing or any outdoor equipment even after several washes.
Practice good application. You want to protect your baby in the best way with mosquito repellents. Making sure that you properly apply and remove chemical and natural repellents can ensure you protect your baby from bites as well as from ingesting potentially harmful chemicals. No matter what repellent you choose, use the following good application practices for your baby:
- Avoid applying repellent to any baby under two months or on any wounds or cuts. Read packaging and application instructions.
- Spray repellents in open areas to prevent ingestion.
- Avoid spraying on your baby’s face; instead, spray some on your hand and rub it on your baby’s face or consider a cream-based repellent instead.
- Use just enough repellent to cover your baby’s skin and avoid reapplying unless necessary.
- Remove any repellent from skin when your baby comes inside by washing it off with soap and water.
Securing Your Baby’s Environment from Mosquitos
- Control your home environment. Some environmental factors may help keep away insects. Controlling your environment through measures such as using fans and filling puddles can make it unappetizing for mosquitoes.
- Fix and replace any broken windows or window screens.
- Put window, standing, or overhead fans in your baby’s room and throughout your home. Fans make it difficult for mosquitos to navigate through the air.
- Remove standing water from your yard because it can attract mosquitoes and promote their breeding. Empty birth baths, fill puddles, and cover pools.
Keep your child away from mosquito-heavy areas. Wooded areas and stagnant water supplies, such as puddles and ponds, attract mosquitoes and encourage them to breed. Make sure your baby stays away from the following areas that attract mosquitoes:
- Garbage cans
- Puddles or other stagnant pools of water
Drape netting over your baby’s carriers. If you go outside or your home attracts a lot of mosquitoes, consider placing netting over your baby’s carriers and sleeping areas. Make sure to purchase netting with small enough holes to deter mosquitoes. You can find this type of netting and home and outdoor stores. Drape the netting over the following baby carriers:
- Car seats and carriers
Place lavender sachets or pillows in your baby’s room. You can heighten the effectiveness of netting, clothing and other measures by putting lavender sachets in your baby’s room. The sachets can deter mosquitoes from attacking your baby.
- Put dried lavender into little cloth bags or small pillowcases to make sachets. Buy dried lavender or dry some from a plant you may have for the sachets.
- Place the sachets in strategic places a curious baby can’t reach. Consider in closets, chests, or other areas of your baby’s bedroom.
Burn a citronella candle. There is evidence that the oil from citronella can keep mosquitoes and other bugs at bay. Consider burning citronella candles with a concentration of 5% to 10% in outdoor areas to help protect your baby—and the rest of your family.
- Allow the candle to burn for as long as you are outside. Candle oils can evaporate quickly and leave you and your baby unprotected if you are outside.
- Make sure to keep the candle safely away from your baby so that she doesn’t burn herself or inhale any fumes.
- Forget wristbands, zappers and ultrasonic devices. Many companies promote the benefits of bug zappers, wristbands, and ultrasonic devices. They may not adequately protect your baby from mosquito bites and you should avoid using them. In addition, wristbands are often soaked in chemicals that can harm your baby if swallowed.
- Use a cold or ice pack to relieve pain and swelling from mosquito bites. You can also use calamine lotion on your baby, but avoid applying it to the eye, mouth, and genital areas.
- Avoid bringing your baby outside during dusk or dawn, which is the prime time for insects to appear.
Sources and Citations
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