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Using Insect Repellents on Your Children

insect repellents, bites, ticks and fleas, stings DEET
By Dr. Cynthia Urbanowicz

Insect repellents help to prevent bites from mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks and fleas, but they do not protect against stinging insects such as bees and wasps. The insect repellents that work the best are the ones that contain DEET. The amount of DEET in each insect repellent varies from less than 10 % to more than 30%. Those that contain greater than 30% DEET do not offer any more protection, and they are not recommended for use on children. The difference between insect repellents with 10% DEET and 30 % DEET is how long they last. 10% DEET lasts about 2 hours while 24 to 30% DEET lasts about 5 to 6 hours. Never use insect repellent on children younger than 2 months of age. It is also not recommended to use insect repellents that contain sunscreen because the sunscreen needs to be applied more often than the repellent does.

Another type of insect repellent which is available is those which contain permethrin. Permethrin kills ticks when they come into contact with it. Permethrin should only be applied to the outside of clothing and never to your child’s skin. Permethrin lasts a long time and will still be present on clothing after washing it several times.

Insect repellents should be applied to the outside of clothing and any exposed skin (except permethrin-never apply to the skin).  It should be sprayed following the directions on the can in a wide open area where the child is not breathing in the chemicals.  Insect repellent should never be sprayed directly on your child’s face. You can spray the repellent on your hands and then rub it on your child’s face avoiding his/her eyes and mouth. Do not spray repellent on any open cuts or rashes. Do not reapply insect repellent unless you have been outside longer than the DEET lasts. Wash your child’s skin immediately with soap and water when returning inside.

Other ways to help protect your child from insect bites are to avoid playing in areas where insects are attracted, such as near pools of water, flowers, garbage cans, food, etc.  Children should avoid wearing clothes with flowers on them or bright colors as well as fragrances, hair sprays or perfumes. If possible your child should wear pants, a light weight long sleeve shirt, socks and gym shoes (not sandals).  Mosquito netting can be placed over strollers to help protect your baby.  All of these things help to protect your child, but there is no way to fully protect against insect bites.

If you have any further questions, please contact your pediatrician.


Topics and Subtopics: Children's Health, General Health & Infant Care

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