Babies And Bugs: How To Avoid Summer Pests
It’s summer, which means lots of time spent outdoors, playing and enjoying the beautiful warm weather. From trips to the beach, to renting a lake house, to hiking and exploring new parks, there is so much fun to be had in nature during these warmer months. However, all that time spent outside often means your kids will have more exposure to bugs, and all the frustrating and painful bites and stings that come along with them! Read on to learn about safe ways to prevent your little ones from suffering from pesky bug bites this season.
Bug bites are worrisome because they can cause more than just redness, swelling, and itching - bugs also carry diseases such as Lyme disease or West Nile virus. Protecting your baby from bothersome bites can be easier said than done, especially in warm, humid weather and in areas where there’s a lot of moisture. Of course, there are countless chemical-laden bug repellents available at most stores - but parents should be cautious about what products they use on small children.
Non-toxic ways to prevent bug bites in babies and children
- Buy a bug shield for the car seat. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, insect repellents of any kind should not be used on newborns (3 months or younger). If your baby is in an infant car seat, you can buy a bug shield that can be draped over the carrier (or over a stroller) as a temporary fix if you absolutely must be outdoors.
- Wear protective clothing. Dress your baby in lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants during times when you know there will be lots of bugs around. If your baby can remain mostly covered in cool, light clothing, the chances of getting bitten are lower. Make sure not to overdress your baby on very hot days, however, as babies cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as older children and adults.
- Spray an infant’s clothes, not her body. To keep potentially harmful chemicals away from your baby’s face and delicate skin, consider spraying the bug repellent on his clothing instead of his skin. A little goes a long way! Be sure to cover trouble areas such as neck and arm holes where insects might crawl.
- Use bug spray sparingly. Although sunscreen needs to be applied and reapplied several times during an outing, bug spray only needs to be applied once. Don’t try to layer insect repellent on your baby’s sensitive skin - use it wisely, but sparingly.
- Bathe baby immediately after each outdoor adventure. Once you get home from your outing, be sure to check your baby’s body for any bugs or tick bites, and then bathe your baby to remove any excess bug repellent that remains on the skin. Leaving the bug spray on your baby’s sensitive skin might cause irritation. Giving your baby a bath will also help cool her down after a hot summer day!
How to handle bug bites this summer
Avoid peak times and locations. Be aware of when certain bugs are more prevalent. Mosquitoes often come out in the early morning and at dusk. Flies are more active during the afternoon and early evening. Bugs can be attracted to bright-colored clothing and scented sunscreens and lotions, so be sure to avoid these if you know your kids are going to be exposed. Dress your children in light-colored long-sleeved clothing and have them wear socks and closed-toed shoes, if possible. Dark or bright clothing can also make it harder to spot any ticks on your child, so it’s best to avoid these if you know you’ll be in an area where they may be exposed to ticks. Location matters, too. Bugs are often attracted to standing water (lakes, ponds, pools, swamps) or wooded areas.
Use bug repellent. DEET can be used on children over 6 months of age, but try to look for a spray with a concentration of no more than 10 percent. At this concentration, bug spray can protect a child for up to 5 hours. Bug spray can be applied to clothing and exposed skin. Do not spray bug spray directly onto a child’s face. Spray a small amount in your hands, and then gently rub it into the skin. Avoid any contact with the eyes or mouth! If you’re using sunscreen, be sure to apply that first and give it time to absorb into the skin. Always wash off bug repellent immediately upon returning home.
Be wise about protecting infants. It is not recommended to use bug repellent on young babies (0-6 months), especially not newborns (0-3 months). You can buy a stroller or car seat cover that protects insects from getting close to your baby, and you can also bring along a pop-up tent if you plan to be outdoors for a while. Avoid falling for the “all natural” route such as using essential oils, which are heavily concentrated and not recommended for young children.
Treat bug bites with care. Teach children not to scratch bug bites, which can make the swelling and irritation worse. Cold compresses or a cool bath can help ease some of the itchiness. Hydrocortisone cream can help soothe itchy skin, as well as antihistamines. Distraction works well with young kids who can’t seem to stop scratching. Give them a fidget toy, silly putty, or play dough to keep their hands occupied so they aren’t tempted to scratch relentlessly at their skin. Sometimes kids will have a more intense reaction to certain insect bites, so ask your child’s pediatrician about what dosage of Benadryl they can take. If the bites look infected, or your child gets a fever, make an appointment with a pediatrician right away.
Spending time outdoors is wonderful for your kids’ growth and development, but it can come at the risk of dealing with pesky bug bites! If you go outdoors this summer, be sure to take precautions and be smart about your surroundings.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.