Summertime means lush green grass, days at a nearby lake or river, and evenings grilling outdoors. Unfortunately, each of these things also means exposure to mosquitos, ticks, and stinging insects. Young children need protection from these insects. Bites and stings are very preventable with just a bit of caution.
Mosquitos are prevalent during the summer months, and those itchy, raised welts can be bothersome to children and adults alike. In addition to causing irritated bites, they carry disease. West Nile virus has been worrying residents of the east coast for years, and this year, Zika virus is making headlines as it threatens to head north into the U.S. You can protect your children from mosquitos byemploying a number of different efforts. First, to avoid coming to contact with these nuisances, make sure the screens in your windows are secure and are free of holes. If you can manage to keep kids indoors at dusk, when mosquitos are most active, do so. Stay away from stagnant, standing water where mosquitos gather. Second, use an insect repellent on your kids’ exposed areas. The CDC recommends using a repellent containing up to 30% DEET, which has been tested in the U.S. and proven effective against bites. DEET typically lasts up to 10 hours. Some parents opt to use repellents containing picaridin, which has not been tested by the CDC, but has been tested in Europe and is said to be highly effective for up to 8-10 hours. If you are worried about using chemical repellents, a synthesized blend of lemon and eucalyptus oils may be effective for up to 6 hours, though the CDC does warn against using agents which have not been tested for efficacy.
Long hikes and adventures in the backyard grass are hallmarks of summer. Unfortunately, grass and leaves are where ticks are commonly found. Avoiding tick bites should be a priority during the summer months. Dog ticks are about the size of a pencil eraser, and are abundant on the east coast. While they don’t carry Lyme disease, they are a nuisance and very prevalent. Deer ticks, also known as Black-legged ticks, are also abundant on the east coast, and these smaller ticks carry Lyme disease. They are only 2-3mm wide, and therefore can be difficult to spot.When your kids come inside from playing in the grass, remember to check their ankles, lower legs, and arms for ticks. If you spot one, remove it by pulling it out with tweezers, pinching it as close to your child’s skin as possible. Wipe the area with alcohol and submerge the tick in alcohol before disposing of it in a sealed plastic bag. Do the same check and removal process for yourself and for household pets. If you spy a deer tick on your child, call your pediatrician after you’ve removed the tick. She may suggest a short course of antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease from developing. Of course, in order to prevent ticks in the first place, dress your child in long, breathable pants with socks and shoes when he plays outside. You can spray his clothing with permethrin, which prevents ticks from attaching to clothing. Use a repellent with DEET as an additional measure.
While those yellow and black striped bees in the backyard are helpful insects that do not spread disease and pollinate our plants, you may still want to educate your child about their behavior around stinging insects. Honeybees tend to be more tolerant of irritation than wasps and hornets, but all stinging insects may sting if agitated. Teach your child not to swat at bees or wasps and make sure she doesn’t walk barefoot on bee-friendly ground, such as clover. Make sure she knows what a hive looks like, and ask her not to disturb one if she sees one, and instead to alert an adult to its presence. You can call a professional pest control expert to remove any hives near your home. An insect sting may cause a crying, shocked child at best, but in cases of an allergy, can cause a severe reaction.
When your children are playing in the yard, hiking with family or friends, or enjoying summertime cookouts, be on alert for summer insects and be prepared so that their impact on your family is minimal.