With summer just around the corner, there's been a spike in reporting around the horror of the summer — mosquitos. With the past two years being overwhelmed with news about the Zika virus and West Nile, it's hard to imagine anything could eclipse that. However, history tells us that we should never rest on our laurels (yannys) when it comes to insect borne diseases, especially when it comes to our little ones. There are so many things you need to know about mosquitoes and babies before heading out into the swarming season.
In recent mosquito seasons, the primary concern with mosquitoes has been the complications from the transmission of Zika virus in-utero and the various concerns around the West Nile disease. This year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we're looking at not only the West Nile Virus and Zika, but also Dengue, and a disease you may not be familiar with named Chikungunya — a disease that while rarely fatal, can cause debilitating pain and weakness. That's why organizations like the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are so laser focused on the prevention of the spread and transmission of these viruses, and are sending out frequent mandates and instructions on how we can prevent these illnesses.
Keep Your Babies Away From The Water
One of the chief tips you'll hear over and over again when it comes to mosquitoes and babies is that you should keep them well away from standing water. Buckets, ponds, pools, lakes, and even puddles are great breeding grounds for the little demon insects. Dr. Christina Moellering, a pediatrician at Cox Health in Springfield, Missouri told Ozarks Live, "If they're going to be playing outside, make sure you keep them away from standing water, dump the kiddie pool, and turn over any flower pots or buckets that can hold standing water."
If you've ever been by a pond in July, you'll know this is sound advice.
Where You Live Matters
I spoke with Larry K. Kociolek, MD, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, and he tells Romper, "Most of the infections we read about" online or social media, "are limited to tropical areas. Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya are rarely found in the United States, and even then it's usually limited to the area surrounding the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean."
Most Bites Aren't A Cause for Concern
Dr. Oyinade Akinyede, Pediatrician at Christie Clinic in Urbana wrote in Chambana Moms that "most bites don’t lead to diseases; however, ticks, mosquitoes, and flea bites can infect you with bacteria, viruses, or parasites they carry. If you’ve been bitten, keep an eye out for symptoms of the illnesses they can spread." Fever, vomiting, lethargy, and pain are all possible indicators of a mosquito-borne illness, the AAP warned.
Not All Colors Of Clothing Are Created Equal
Certain colors of clothing and gear attract mosquitoes more strongly than others. Amy Lawhorne, vice president of Mosquito Squad, told The Huffington Post that mosquitoes are more likely to land on those wearing navy or black, so lighten up the colors worn by your children or the ones surrounding your babies. They're also "attracted to ultraviolet, fluorescent, and blue light" so keep those out of your environment.
That explains why whenever we cleaned out our fluorescent porch lights they were always filled with dead mosquitoes. Consider ditching your CFL bulbs outside and switching to the LED variety.
Some Babies Might Smell Better To Mosquitoes Than Others
Wendy Hunter, MD, a Pediatrician at Children's Primary Care Medical Group, La Jolla, California, wrote for Baby Science that "Every person has a unique smell signature that make some people more fragrant to a mosquito than others. There’s nothing you can do to change your scent — not even eating garlic, onions or other malodorous foods, so don’t bother trying."
Not All Repellants Are Created Equal
According to the CDC, DEET is the gold standard insect repellant, but it's not the only one. They wrote, "Many repellents contain DEET as the active ingredient. The duration of protection varies with the DEET concentration; higher concentrations protect longer. Products with DEET concentration above 50 percent do not offer a marked increase in protection time." So don't go overboard. There's also picaridin, citronella, permetherin, and lemon-eucalyptus oil, according to the AAP. However, the regulations on each differ, so keep on top of what you're using. The Environmental Protection Agency has a handy online tool to find the best one.
The AAP also cautions strongly in the use of DEET that less than 30 percent of DEET should be used on babies older than 2 months, and repellants with DEET should not be used on infants younger than 2 months.
If Your Baby Does Get Bit, Don't Let Them Scratch
I know, as a manic scratcher of bites myself, it seems cruel to deny your child the ability to soothe the itch. However, Seattle Children's Hospital warned parents that they should clip their babies' nails or cover them in mittens to prevent them from breaking the skin while scratching. It can leave them vulnerable to a site infection on top of the itch.
Apply The Repellant To Your Hands First & Then Onto Your Baby
Dr. Kociolak tells Romper that the best way to avoid DEET toxicity is to avoid getting the DEET in the eyes, nose, or mouth. Because of this, you should never spray your baby directly. Instead, spray your hands and then wipe it onto your baby, avoiding their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Don't Use the Combination Sunscreen & Repellants
There are a ton of these on the market, but the combo sunscreen and bug repellants should not be used, wrote Dr. Melissa Segal, MD of Live Well Pediatrics in Waldick, New Jersey. She said, "Do not use combination products of sunscreen and bug repellent; you will need to spray the sunscreen much more often than is safe to spray bug spray." Kociolak tells Romper that bug spray and sunscreen can and should be used together, but to apply the sunscreen first, wait five to 10 minutes, and then apply the DEET.
Kociolek says to pay close attention to the levels of concentration of your DEET product so that you can reapply when necessary without adding too much.
If You're At All Worried, Call Your Doctor
Follow your mom instinct. Dr. Oyinade Akinyede wrote that if you think something's off, call your pediatrician. Also, be on the lookout for "high fever, muscle weakness, vision loss, neck stiffness, disorientation or stupor, or tremors, convulsions, numbness, paralysis, as these are all a reason to dial 9-1-1." Your doctor can also guide you in taking care of and treating the bites, be it with creams or an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl if your baby is really uncomfortable.
Mosquito Netting Is Your BFF
You can't use DEET on babies under 2 months, but mosquito netting and clothing treated with permethrin are safe for little ones, says Kociolek. Also, try to keep your baby inside when mosquitoes are the worst, which is traditionally during dawn and dusk.
Be Careful Where You Apply Repellant
Dr. Kociolek says you absolutely should never ever apply insect repellant to broken skin, over wounds, or on sunburned areas. This could lead to toxic levels of repellant.