Safe Insect Repellent
Once nothing more thank a pesky insect, mosquitoes are now a public enemy, spreading the sometimes deadly West Nile Virus and other diseases to unsuspecting outdoor enthusiasts, young and old.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 49 cases of West Nile Virus last year in children aged 0 to 9 and 81 cases in children aged 10-19.
While the most serious cases of WNV occur in seniors, children are nonetheless susceptible to the disease. Fortunately, most children who get the virus will have only a mild illness. Children with weak immune systems or who already have a serious illness are most at risk of becoming very sick.
Children playing outdoors during the daytime hours are at minimal risk for exposure, as the mosquitoes that most commonly carry West Nile Virus are generally more active during the early evening and early morning hours.
Protecting Children From Bugs
To protect children from exposure to the virus carrying mosquitos, the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends the following ways to avoid insect bites:
* Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts outdoors.
* Avoid places where mosquitoes breed and live, like standing water.
* Stay inside when mosquitoes are most active: dawn, dusk, early evening.
* Use insect repellent, such as DEET, which keeps flies and mosquitoes away. Not all products have the same concentration, or amount, of DEET. This amount is expressed as a percentage, such as 10% DEET.
Parents are naturally concerned about using insect repellents on very young children. In their Caring for Kids resource sheet, Insect repellents for children, the CPA offers the following suggestions:
* When using insect repellent on children, always apply it for them.
* Always read the entire label before using.
* Apply the product lightly. Don’t use more than you need.
* Do not apply on irritated or sunburned skin.
* Apply it only on top of clothing or to skin that is showing.
* Don’t use it under clothes.
* Do not get it in eyes. If you do get insect repellent in your eyes, rinse with water right away.
* If you are spraying, be careful not to breathe it.
* Always spray products in a place that is well ventilated.
* Don’t spray it in a tent, or near food.
* Don’t spray children’s hands. They’ll be less likely to get it into their eyes or mouth.
* When you don’t need the protection anymore, wash the skin with soap and water.
* If you think your child is having a reaction to the product, wash the skin and get medical help right away. Take the container with you so the doctor knows what you used.
Children under 6 months old:
* Do not use insect repellents with DEET on infants. Although there is no known hazard to breastfed infants, nursing mothers may wish to consider DEET alternatives, such as using protective clothing and avoiding exposure to insects (see above).
* Products containing citronella or lavender oil should not be used on infants.
Children aged 6 months to 2 years:
* If there is a high risk of complications from insect bites (for example, an area where there are reports of West Nile virus), you can use products with DEET only once a day.
* Use a product with the least available concentration: 10% DEET or less. Although there is no known hazard to breastfed infants, nursing mothers may wish to consider DEET alternatives, such as using protective clothing and avoiding exposure to insects (see above).
* Products containing citronella or lavender oil should not be used. Use just a little bit of the product.
* Don’t apply it to the child’s face or hands. It’s best not to use the product for a long time.
Children between 2 and 12 years old:
* Use a product with no more than 10% DEET.
* Do not apply more than 3 times a day.
* Do not apply to the child’s face or hands. It’s best not to use the product for a long time.