FORT LEE, Va. -- Warmer temperatures mean more outdoor family time. Before heading outside, it is imperative to think about safety. This includes protecting one’s skin from harmful UV rays and to guard against potentially harmful insect bites and stings.
Children playing outdoors during the warmer months are susceptible to getting insect bites and stings from spiders, ticks, mosquitoes, ants and bees/wasps. While most only result in mild local irritation, sometimes they can cause more serious conditions such as anaphylactic reactions, cellulitis and Lyme disease.
Ticks are the most common carriers of Lyme disease as well as other bacteria and viruses. Lyme disease is spread by deer ticks, and reported cases are on the rise. Symptoms include fever, aches and fatigue. There also may be a bullseye rash around the site of the bite.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 30,000 cases of Lyme are diagnosed every year in the U.S. Virginia is in the top third of states with confirmed cases.
Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile, Zika, Chikungunya and other viruses. West Nile and Zika are the most recent mosquito-borne illnesses in the news. They can cause flu-like symptoms in some people, but they also can cause serious complications, particularly among pregnant women.
To protect children and other family members from insect bites, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend the following safeguards:
• Wear insect repellent containing DEET when going outside.
The Academy of Pediatrics states insect repellents containing DEET are safe for children as young as two months old. Parents should choose an insect repellent with the lowest concentration of chemicals that still provides the required length of coverage. For children older than two months, the AAP recommends using repellents with 10- to 30-percent DEET. Keep in mind that 10 percent of the chemical provides about two hours of protection.
Parents who are still worried about the safety of DEET can find alternative insect repellants such as those made with Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535. Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three years.
Always follow the directions as they appear on the product label. Generally, repellent with DEET should not be applied more than once a day if it can be avoided – meaning shorter playtimes outdoors during times when insects are most active.
• Practice safe repellent application procedures.
The strategy of insect protection is to make yourself a less-tasty target. Only exposed skin and clothing needs to be treated. Repellents should not be applied under clothing. Avoid areas near the mouth and eyes and apply sparingly around ears. Never use repellents on cuts, wounds or rashes. Avoid spraying products directly onto the face.
Never allow children to handle or spray the repellent. Parents should put the product on their hands first and then rub it onto the child’s skin, avoiding the hands because youngsters are known to put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
• Do not use products containing both an insect repellent and a sunscreen. The latter needs to be applied more often than insect repellent and should be used separately.
• Upon returning indoors, use soap and water to wash off the repellent. If a child gets a rash or other reaction, stop using the product. If the problem is mild and persists, make an appointment with your health care provider. For severe reactions, call the poison control center (1-800-222-1222) for guidance.
• Wearing long pants tucked into socks and long-sleeved shirts are additional safeguards against mosquitoes and ticks. Light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot and makes children less attractive to bees.
• Check children frequently for ticks when outdoors or in the woods.
• Make sure there is no standing water in your yard such as water in buckets, fire pits and birdbaths. Mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in standing water.
• Be careful at picnics and outdoor events. Sweet foods and drinks attract bees and wasps. Keep food and the trashcan covered.
• Do not use sweet-smelling perfumes/sprays, lotions or hair products when planning a day outdoors.
• Instruct children to stay away from beehives/wasp nests and ant hills.
• Don’t try to swat bees or wasps with your hands. Stand still and they should go away.
• Be careful near woodpiles, sheds, dark corners of the garage and other places that spiders may hide.